Hassel Bacchus

New Minister in the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation, Hassel Bacchus, walking up the pathway at President’s House before his swearing in last month. —Photo: Ishmael Salandy

IN 2020, and after 25 years of Internet connectivity in T&T, the Government is priorisiting digitisation.

While the private sector has taken the lead, the public service has lagged.

To this end, the Government has re-branded the Ministry of Public Administration to include the addendum, “and Digital Transformation” and added TSTT’s former chief technology officer, Hassel Bacchus, an industry veteran with three decades of expertise, to help oversee the process.

In an online pre-budget titled, ‘Digital Government and The Ease of Doing Business / Recommendations for the 2021 National Budget’ hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Industry Services last Friday, Bacchus observed that Ministries have done digital transformation in silos and there was a need for a common platform.

He said as it stands, there are some processes that have “to be ripped off completely and rebuilt entirely from scratch.”

Most importantly, public officers have to become digital employees.

“If they want to function within a digital government, digital literacy within the government officers has to be at that particular level,” he said.

He also observed there is “some level of digital illiteracy within the citizenry” and systems have to be put in place for people who aren’t fully digital literate.

“What happens when we build full government digital systems for payments and you have a large sector of the population that is unbanked? All of these things go into how we have to coordinate and collaborate to ensure that when we do what we do and we bring these digital government things into force, that we don’t leave a section of the population behind,” he said.

He observed that the Government’s legislative agenda” must be in tune “with what we’re trying to do.”

Just how digitally literate is the population?

If you use the digital consumption as one metric, then according to the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT)’s 14th Annual Market Report: Telecommunications and Broadcasting Sectors 2019, T&T has a “vibrant and robust” telecommunications and broadcasting sectors which generated an estimated $5.02 billion in revenues from January to December 2019.

The report, dated September 2020, looked at the performance of the two sectors during the period of January to December 2019.

It said that fixed voice, mobile voice, fixed Internet, mobile Internet and pay TV market subscriptions collectively totalled approximately $3.74 million — an increase of 200,000, or 5.6 per cent, when compared to the same period in 2018.

“Of the five main markets within this sector, the Internet market generated most of the gross revenues, i.e., 50.8 per cent. The mobile voice market held the second largest proportion of revenues, with 25.3 per cent, while revenues from the fixed voice and international voice markets followed with 12.8 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively. The leased line market produced 2.6 per cent, with other revenues contributing the remaining 2.7 per cent. The Internet market continued its fifth consecutive year of increased percentage contribution to total telecommunications revenues, rising from 46 per cent in 2018 to 50.8 per cent in 2019,” the report said.

Among its findings:

1. Reduction in total revenues observed within the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors -With $5.02 billion in revenues during 2019, it was an 11 per cent decrease in total revenues when compared to 2018. The telecommunications sector contributed $4.1 billion, or 81.7 per cent, while the broadcasting sector contributed $0.92 billion, or 18.3 per cent, of total industry revenues.

2. Internet market retains its position as top revenue earner- With an estimated $2,079.7 million generated, the Internet market continued to be the dominant revenue earner, accounting for 41.4 per cent of total industry revenues. Next in the hierarchy was mobile voices services and the pay TV market, which generated $1,038 million (20.7 per cent) and $726.9 million (14.5 per cent), respectively.

3. Total telecommunications and broadcasting subscriptions increase while fixed Internet subscriptions decline- After four years of continuous growth in the number of subscriptions, the fixed Internet market contracted by 0.6 per cent, to record 339,400 subscriptions — 1,900 subscriptions fewer than in 2018.

4. Rise in subscriptions to both mobile voice services as well as pay TV- The number of subscriptions within the mobile voice market increased from $1.97 million in 2018 to $2.16 million in 2019 — representing a rise of 9.6 per cent, or 190,000 subscribers in the span of one year. After two years of decline in subscriptions, the pay TV market figure rose in 2019, recording 249,800 subscriptions, which was an increase of 6.4 per cent from the previous year.

5. Decreases in revenue are observed in both Free to Air (FTA) TV and FTA radio broadcasting markets- The trend of falling gross revenue for FTA TV continued in 2019. Total gross revenue amounted to $60.2 million — a drop of $11 million, or 15.4 per cent, compared to 2018. Likewise, in the FTA radio market, there was a decrease in revenue amounting to $5.4 million, which represented a 3.9 per cent contraction from the previous year.

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