Photo Credit by Sateish Rampersad
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining us today.
It’s hard to believe that it has been sixteen months since Trinidad and Tobago recorded its first case of the COVID-19 virus. However, there is so much more information that we have today, as compared to what little we knew when the pandemic started.
You have heard time and time again throughout the pandemic, to "trust the science". Today, hope is measured by the science which has given us vaccines that provide an exit out of this pandemic and a welcome return to a new version of normal that will see us working, living and playing together again. I know every citizen is wishing for this and anxious to get back to “living life” again. We all deserve this and that’s one of the reasons why we are gathered here today.
This pandemic has taken a toll on people both locally and globally in several ways, with many losing not only their jobs but their lives. COVID-19 does not discriminate; vaccines are the means through which we can save lives and fight this virus. It is the hope that an increase in vaccinated persons will allow for the eventual resumption of operations in the country.
Because we want to see persons safely return to work and resume their livelihoods, providing for themselves and their families and work towards getting back on their feet. We want to see businesses and therefore our economy thrives once more. And we want to see our nation bounce back successfully – more unified and collaborative in the post-pandemic era.
Today, I am so very pleased to see corporate Trinidad and Tobago step up to play their part in fighting this pandemic. As you are fully aware, an operation such as this is a massive undertaking, and it cannot be done by one single person or organization. If this pandemic has taught us anything, besides the importance of health and safety, it is the value of cooperation and collaboration. There are a number of private sector led mass vaccinations sites and you heard Charles mention 5 of the mass vaccination sites, which demonstrate the continued collaboration between the private sector and the government as we work together to protect our citizens and defeat COVID-19.
At this the NAPA mass vaccination site, AMCHAM T&T is proud of the partnership we have forged with two private sector business organisations to assist the government’s efforts in making sure we reach herd immunity within the targeted timeframe. I want to say a special thank you to the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and the TT Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) for the camaraderie and collaboration in operationalizing this mass vaccination site housed here at the National Academy for the Performing Arts. And I also want to thank the Ministry of Health for the vaccines and for their guidance in establishing this site. I must also acknowledge other organisations such as SEWATT, TTMA and SATT, who had previously run mass vaccination sites and who willingly shared their learnings and experience with us that helped greatly in setting up this site.
To corporate T&T, thank you for your timely and invaluable contributions to the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign, be it monetary or in kind. This site will be operational for sixty (60) days and all expenses related to the site management, administration of 200 staff and volunteers, meals, requisite equipment, among other things, have all been sponsored by the private sector. Many of you have certainly answered the call for support and have truly been examples of what responsible corporate citizens look like.
A huge and heartfelt thank you to the volunteers who have been coming out each day to assist with this drive and that includes medical volunteers provided by the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association, the members of which have been providing yeoman’s service in administering the vaccines at this site. T&T Medical Association President Dr Vishi Beharry and our Site Medical Director Dr Maria Bartholomew have simply been spectacular. I take this opportunity to also acknowledge all of our health care professionals who are on the front lines every day and providing gallant service to our country. The exceptional work that you have been doing over the past sixteen months does not go unnoticed by us in the private sector. And so we sincerely thank you.
I am happy to see people turning out to get vaccinated. It shows a level of understanding that vaccination is the only way we can truly prevail and come out of this pandemic. To those who are yet to be vaccinated, I encourage you to utilise the resources available on the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation websites and speak to your physician to answer any questions you may have to help you make an educated and informed decision. And when you do make that decision, know that we are here and ready to serve you efficiently and in comfort at the NAPA mass vaccination site.
And so according to our vaccination campaigns, Let’s Each Do Our Part and please come and Take D Jab Jab.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much for your attention.
Technology - Moving from NOW to BEYOND
The future is uncertain. I’m not sure what how to plan for Now far less Beyond
The issue is that the hose is tangled so the water pressure appears low.
So, they say that recession jamming
And so to foreign countries Trinis start migrating
They lose faith in their country, they say we gone down the drain
They say no more could we see happy times again
But the will to recover in my people I have confidence
Although many may seem to feel that I talking nonsense
Any time that we hear that Trinbago is facing a crisis
As loyal citizens it's our duty to stay and assist
For we know to weself there could never become a day
When our debts to this country we can repay.
So, our people need us today more than ever
But in our fight to recover, if ever you feel to surrender
It have one little thing that I want you always remember...
We could make it if we try just a little harder
If we just give one more try, life will be much sweeter.
I am Nirad Tewarie - CEO of AMCHAM T&T. It is my pleasure to welcome you to AMCHAM T&T’s 3rd edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.).
I want to start by thanking all our attendees for joining us today. Your participation today, and over the next three days is very important to us. We believe bringing together tech companies, business leaders, and decision makers for dialogue and engagement on digital transformation, will help us to create a launchpad from which we will create a globally competitive tech ecosystem and soon after, hub.
I want to begin by extending our gratitude to all our sponsors of t.h.i.s. 2021. These are companies who believe in and who are supporting this vision:
For the third year running, Title Sponsor: Republic Bank - thank you for your valuable support and partnership on this important venture.
Also, our Partners from the inception Platinum Sponsors: PwC and Digicel Business
Gold Sponsors: Inter-American Development Bank, Guardian Group Trinidad and Tobago
Digital Media Partner: Trend Media Group
And today would not be possible with our AMCHAM T&T team. Everyone pitched in but I must make special mention of Rey Ann Paynter Mendez who organised this event; Neerala Boodoo is solely responsible for the look and feel; Hema Son Son and Michelle Laggan who did whatever needed to be done and Kennedy Maraj for all the communication support and hype around the event. Of course, the support of Melissa Pierre, Choy Durity, Kelvin Alleyne and Phyllis Johnson have also been invaluable.
This is a difficult speech. I must admit. Those of you who recognised the words of Black Stalin earlier, and I assume that’s the majority of you, would, no doubt, notice that I omitted the line about our darkest hour. That’s because I don’t believe that we’re facing our darkest hour. No at all. I am certain however, that our country is facing a crisis of confidence.
The hose is tangled.
Despite all our talent, our energy, our creativity, our adaptability and our dynamism, we are behaving as though we have lost faith in ourselves. We, the people who invented steel pan and limbo.
We, the people in whose country the first full television pictures were broadcast.
We, the people who created one of the largest petrochemical industries in the world.
We, the people who moved early into LNG, building the largest LNG plant in the world at that time.
We the people whose writers have won a nobel prize for literature.
We the people whose artists have won Academy Awards, Tonys and Grammys.
We the people whose athletes shine on the world stage.
We need to believe in ourselves again. We could make it if we try. Not only a little harder but a little differently.
I said earlier that the hose is tangled. How many of you have tackled a properly tangled garden hose? It’s daunting. At the beginning it feels like we will never successfully untangle it. So, we pass one end through a knot.
What we are doing here today and over the next three days is untangling some knots. Bringing people together. Highlighting key issues to move our country forward using technology and zeroing in on some solutions.
Those solutions will require collaboration. They will require critique. Criticism or calls for action are not unpatriotic. Indeed, constructive criticism and identification of solutions are some of the most patriotic actions. The Government cannot do it alone. Nor can the private sector. We need to work even more collaboratively in genuine partnership. And, at the very top, the Government and Opposition must find some common ground to chart a way forward.
Confidence will return once there is belief in a national plan. A coherent vision into which we can all buy. A vision with actionable steps. Technology will be a critical enabler to achieve this vision. Developing a tech sector in T&T must also be part of the strategy for economic recovery and growth.
So, let’s tackle another knot - digital policy, I’ll highlight a few of our recommendations.
The Government should facilitate an accelerated “digital policy” refresh for existing digital strategies, policies and frameworks to support innovation within the Government.
There are a number of digital strategies, policies and frameworks which impact GORTT’s digital transformation initiatives. A co-ordinated approach to the completion and adoption of the following policies should be incorporated.
► Open Source Policy
► Remote Working Policy Suite
► Data Strategy, Policy and Framework
► GORTT Asset Management
► Open Government Policy
► Cloud Computing (Cloud options for WoG)
► e-Government Omnibus Technical Standards (e-GOTS)
► e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF)
► Change Management Policy
We also recommend accelerating the implementation of the regulatory sandbox announced by the Central Bank. This will advance financial inclusion via technology innovations within the financial sector and will allow for local fintechs to roll out to beta users, before completing lengthy regulatory processes and allow them to attract funding from both local and international investors, thereby creating economic opportunity for the technology sector. While this has been announced, it has not been effectively implemented thus far. Collaboration with trade associations such as AMCHAM T&T will be important for this to be effectively rolled out.
Another important policy will be the revisiting of the framework governing digital and electronic signatures and fully proclaiming the Electronic Transaction Act, specifically the implementation of the Electronic Authentication Service Providers. Promoting the use of digital signatures with the general public is necessary to inspire greater confidence in the use of and reliance on digital signatures, as this will be key to facilitating legal arrangements going forward across all industries.
As we get set to discuss design thinking in a short while. We recommend that the Government establish a data interoperability framework.
The goal is to help the GoRTT find the optimal strategy that is sustainable and appropriate for a small island developing state and factors in resilience. An interoperability framework is a set of standards and guidelines that a government uses to specify the preferred way that its agencies, citizens and partners interact with each other vs. interoperability via architecture, e.g. national enterprise architecture which is a strategic planning framework that relates and aligns government ICT with the governmental functions that it supports. This will allow for greater participation from the private sector developing solutions to support citizen service delivery and accelerate the Government’s digital transformation agenda.
While we have several more recommendations, the final one I’ll highlight here is the implementation of a National Unique Identifier and Legal Digital Identity. This number should be used as the single citizen electronic interface and to track the State’s interaction with citizens from cradle to grave – i.e. birth certificate, death certificate, passport, IDs, schooling, vaccination etc. and the legal digital identity should give legal protection of the digital presence of the individual.
You see, we can't afford to stand still. We can’t afford to make marginal and incremental steps. We need bold and decisive leadership and action to unleash our potential. We need to ensure that we use technology not just to solve our "now" problems. Technology is most beneficial when it helps us create solutions for the problems we cannot see or have yet to experience. It’s also pretty good at creating opportunities we could only imagine. These are the opportunities that lie beyond what our NOW realities are. That's why the theme for t.h.i.s. 2021 is called "Now and Beyond". And that’s why we need to create the enabling environment now.
To assist in highlighting and propelling this agenda, we have six dynamic sessions focusing first on design thinking. That is, how do we go about solving problems understanding that solutions will require inputs and actions from multiple actors.
One of the most important steps in our digital transformation journey is easier and cheaper e-payments. So, this afternoon’s session zeros in on FinTech.
Understanding the true value of the tech investment is why we move next to the Digital ROI tomorrow morning, with a focus on the private sector. In the afternoon though, we shift to the Government with our Digital Transformation of Governments session.
Of course, technology without people is useless. So, in looking at how we transform our economy and how we integrate the greater and more effective use of technology, we must look at people. So, we start Day III of t.h.i.s by discussing the future of work in both the private and public sectors; Our final session, we hope, will demonstrate that we are not starting from a blank canvas. In fact, there is much innovation happening in T&T already. So, we will hear from some of the people who are leading that in our final segment on Wednesday afternoon, Creating Tomorrow, Today.
These sessions will highlight and hopefully spark conversation and greater collaboration on where we are right now in our digital transformation journey, where we should be heading, and the steps we need to take now to ensure that we get there and move beyond!
We must thank our Session Sponsors: Caribel; Atlantic Lng; Visa; KPMG; SAP; PBS Technologies and The National Gas Company (NGC) for partnering with us this year on these sessions and recognizing the importance of these topics.
Ultimately, this is the challenge AMCHAM T&T has taken on particularly with t.h.i.s.
We want to build a national tech ecosystem and marketplace that will allow local businesses to export tech services to international markets.
We want to develop a critical mass of local talent and put the established businesses in touch with the young disruptors who are paving the way for the future so that they can work together on solutions that take us beyond the “now” problems.
So, we will untangle the hose. And, at some point, we find the key knot. The knot after which we untangle, the entire thing seems to come free.
Let’s dream, let’s build, let’s innovate and let’s lead with Technology so the lives of every citizen are made up of fewer inequalities and more opportunities in the future.
We could make it if we try just a little harder; a little differently.
If we just give one more try, life will be much sweeter.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to the second edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit Conference. It is indeed a great honour for Republic Bank to once again be a part of this two-day networking, educational and tech conference. Thank you for joining us and being here.
At the 2019 edition of THIS, I spoke of a Trinidad and Tobago in 2030 positively disrupted by technology and riding a wave of digital transformation success. I come to you now in 2021, in a Trinidad and Tobago, socially and economically disrupted by a virus that has plagued the entire world for the last nearly eighteen months.
COVID-19 has been a human tragedy, and I sympathise with those families here at home, in the region and globally, who have lost loved ones to the virus. I also emphatise with those who have been affected by the virus in other ways. These are certainly not normal times and like all of you, I can’t wait for it to end.
But even as we yearn for the end of the pandemic, we should be looking to the lessons learnt; the things that will remain part of our lives; the changes we should be making.
If we weren’t convinced before that digital transformation was the way forward for us; the cycles of lockdowns; the misnomer social distancing; the transition to work from home and the challenges of carrying out life’s routine transactions with reduced human contact, should leave no doubt in our mind about its benefits and even necessity.
In its 2021 Budget, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago extended the remit of the Ministry of Public Administration to include responsibility for Digital Transformation. In February 2021, the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation announced the formation of a Cabinet-appointed Digital Transformation Advisory Committee with a mandate which states - “Provide an external review of GoRTT’s proposed ICT investments and provide feedback on the impact of active investment on the quality of life and standard of living of citizens.”
The Committee has established workstreams that will look at Policy and Law, Change Management, IT Infrastructure and Services and Communities Outreach and Uptake. These announcements are indeed laudable, and we look forward to experiencing the impact of the Committee’s work.
While a critical step to digital transformation at the national level is Government’s involvement and more so leadership; other areas of society need to experience their own eureka moments on this matter and drive their own agenda if we are to continue to move the needle and take our rightful place at the digital table.
But having bandied about the phrase “digital transformation” some six (6) times so far in this address I thought that it would be useful to settle on a definition.
Salesforce, a global technology company defines digital transformation as “the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.”
What I like about this definition is that it can apply equally to businesses and governments, and it touches on some of the key elements that are critical to any attempt at moving an entity up the digital ladder.
These elements are: Change, Customer Experience, Processes; and Technology. You will note that I put technology at the end of the list, and while no doubt all digital transformation is dependent on some element of technology, too much of a focus on this can detract from the real keys to success.
I mentioned “change” and more explicitly, “change management” at the top of the list, because if this aspect if not properly handled most transformation efforts will fail or not live up to their full potential.
Acknowledging, understanding, and addressing the concerns and issues of all effected stakeholders is critical to creating buy-in, wide-scale adoption and ultimately success.
Timely and targeted communication are also a critical aspect of successful change management and any transformation effort. And feedback loops to allow for the understanding of the impact on constituent parties and adjustments as required are also essential components.
Equally important is the customer/user experience. I use the term customer/user, because not only is it critical to focus on the ultimate customer but also on the employees that use any systems or processes. Those transformation efforts which start by examining, unpacking and repacking the customer/user journey stand the greatest chances of creating fundamental shifts in their industries, markets or societies. Ultimately, a positive impact on the customer experience is the key measure of any transformation effort’s success.
For instance, HSBC, one of the leading financial institutions in the world, with over 38 million retail banking and wealth management customers globally, recently made the strategic decision to utilize Pega across the entirety of its customer base. By implementing a global framework, the brand has maximized reuse and deployed to a number of markets across multiple sales and service channels. The results include significant improvements in customer and colleague experience, as well as revenue uplift.
In order to reimagine processes, business and government processes must operate outside of organization silos and must be done end-to-end, using multiple avenues to find and connect to customers’ needs.
Consider this, retail customers in Australia and New Zealand expect a world-class experience, and the Kmart Group has been delivering a better customer experience through future-ready employees and infrastructure using cloud technology.
By partnering with Amazon Web Services, to build out its capability in several areas, including data and analytics. It led to some great successes, including being able to live stream point of sale (POS) data, and the use of machine learning to predict consumer buying habits for improved demand forecasting. It also allowed Kmart to change the colors, sizes and store locations of millions of pieces of clothing through this process, resulting in improved sales growth.
With so many options to improving process, you should know that there is also a fine art for determining when incremental process improvement is sufficient and when radical process reengineering is necessary. A future based mindset is critical to deriving long term benefit to these changes.
As efforts like these ripple through our government and our businesses, collectively they will enhance national productivity and economic competitiveness.
However, we must be aware of the various inequities that exist in our societies and ensure that these changes are inclusive and benefit a broad cross-section of society as possible. The Cabinet-appointed Digital Transformation Advisory Committee, through its subcommittee work-stream on Communities Outreach and Uptake, has recognized this need.
In September 2020, Republic Financial Holdings Limited, signed on to the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Banking, committing to this global initiative in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the areas that we specifically adopted in Trinidad and Tobago is Goal # 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
The UN SDG document states: “Inclusive and sustainable industrialization, together with innovation and infrastructure, can unleash dynamic and competitive economic forces that generate employment and income. They play a key role in introducing and promoting new technologies, facilitating international trade and enabling the efficient use of resources.”
Our actions at Republic Bank, in support of this goal will see us launch programs and products that will support and drive innovation, promote sustainable industrialization and help build a resilient infrastructure.
To this end, we have launched several sustainable and environmentally friendly products and services including:
While Estonia and Singapore are good ‘poster-boys' for discussing digital transformation, it would be a missed opportunity if we merely pass these references around at social gatherings and never apply what we've learned.
I believe that the Covid-19 pandemic can and should serve as a catalyst, providing the impetus we need to stop procrastinating and push ourselves to be proactive and creative. Its impact can already be seen in aspects of how the government, industries, and small businesses have developed new ways to operate and serve the country – but this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is much more to be done.
As Senator the Honourable Allyson West, Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation, stated in her Keynote Address at the Trinidad and Tobago Internet Governance Forum in January 2021, “…Government has placed the development of a Digital Trinidad and Tobago at the forefront of its Development Agenda and stated that a fully digital Trinidad and Tobago is central to the growth and diversification of our economy.”
A lofty ambition indeed and bold words…and it’s up to all of us to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
I thank you.
I want to thank the Trinidad and Tobago American Chamber of Commerce, the team at the U.S. Embassy, and the regional Foreign Commercial Service team based in Santo Domingo, for the invitation to be here with all of you today.
I would have preferred to see all of you in person, in beautiful Port of Spain. It’s a place I’ve been fortunate to visit a number of times. It is my sincere hope that conditions improve soon. I have every confidence that the efforts of all Trinbagonian citizens will soon defeat COVID-19.
Since the confirmation of our new Secretary of Commerce, we have been working steadily on President Biden’s commitment to sustained engagement with our partners throughout the Western Hemisphere to advance our shared vision for a future that is democratic, middle class, and secure.
Our over-arching goal is to support a prosperous, safe, and democratic region where the United States can partner with other countries to advance our shared interests.
Strong and healthy regional economies are good for the United States and for our regional partners.
The United States is Trinidad and Tobago’s top trading partner, as it is for over two-thirds of the hemisphere’s countries, and U.S companies have invested over one trillion dollars in the region. The United States is the destination for 39 percent of Trinidad and Tobago’s exports, and accounts for 26 percent of Trinbagonian imports. The closeness of our relationship isn’t just geographic; it’s material.
The United States trades twice as much with the countries of North, Central and South America as we do with China – and we export more to our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere than we do to all of Asia combined.
Over 42 percent of total U.S. merchandise exports went to the Western Hemisphere in 2020 and U.S. goods trade with the Western Hemisphere totaled $1.3 trillion in 2020.
Ultimately, I do not think it is possible to overstate the importance of our economic engagement with the Americas.
But it is particularly critical at this moment. The pandemic has had devastating effects on us all, both in terms lost lives and suffering and lost jobs and livelihoods. I know the people of Trinidad and Tobago are acutely aware of these impacts.
The IMF’s latest estimate is that GDP in the region contracted by well over 7 percent in 2020. For Trinidad and Tobago that contraction is estimated to have been nearly 8 percent.
Trade is estimated to have declined by well over 20 percent, matching and even exceeding declines we saw in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
The responses of governments across the region have varied, but in all cases the reduction in revenue and necessary emergency expenditures have strained budgets, added to debt loads, and tested the ability to deliver services. Investment decisions by the private sector, and plans for infrastructure by the public sector, have been deferred or suspended until the future becomes clearer.
While we expect to begin to recover this year, IMF and World Bank projections suggest that the world economy won’t reach pre-crisis levels of economic activity until 2023 or later.
So we are all facing a monumental challenge. How do we deliver prosperity, jobs and—at its heart—the hope for our people that tomorrow can be better than today?
I would argue that our best chance for success lies in working together to address the challenges of competitiveness, transparency, and security.
The Department of Commerce works to bring the U.S. private sector’s viewpoint to the U.S. government decision-making process. This is how my Department plays a role in spurring economic growth and broad-based prosperity both at home and in the region.
As I think we can all acknowledge, governments cannot address problems alone. Our respective private sectors are the engines that will ultimately drive growth and job creation in our countries.
Which brings me to another of the roles of the Department of Commerce, which is to take the advice of the private sector and work to create the conditions under which our companies and entrepreneurs can drive economic growth and job creation.
Based on that advice, we have focused our work in the region in three areas.
When we speak of Transparency, we are advocating for better and more open policy decisions and procurements, and helping support transparent government processes. U.S. and Caribbean companies benefit from commitments that facilitate transparent rulemaking, predictable legal frameworks, strong intellectual property protections, and regulatory certainty--at home as well as in global markets.
President Biden characterized America as being in an era of “extreme competition” with China, but no one should conclude that the United States sees our relationships with other countries through that lens, as merely fields in which U.S.-Chinese competition plays out. Nor are we presenting nations in the Western Hemisphere with a choice of either doing business with the United States or doing business with China.
We are proud of the achievements of U.S. companies across many industries -- from healthcare to high-speed computing, and from renewable energy to entertainment. We are, have been, and will continue to be eager to have U.S. companies compete with those of any other country. Because fair competition in the marketplace is what delivers the best value and results for consumers, taxpayers and business.
We are redoubling our efforts to bring forward the solutions, technologies, approaches, and discoveries of the United States’ private sector. We share their “thought leadership” with other countries in order to begin a discussion -- to see how these ideas might apply to a given country’s challenges, opportunities and priorities.
Our businesses have the potential to develop these solutions together. Whether it is the application of IT tools to improve the transparency of tax collection, of AI to increase the productivity of natural resource sectors, of new technologies to combat climate change, or of new research to the healthcare challenges we all share, our businesses have the potential to achieve these goals together.
I mentioned the strains on public finances due to COVID leading to the deferral of public infrastructure projects or worse: causing countries to turn to new sources of debt finance that do not operate with the same transparency as private capital markets. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the form of concessions or similar agreements are a proven model for equity investments and private operation of public infrastructure. However, not all PPPs are created equal, and not all private partners are truly private.
The U.S. Government and private sector can work with governments in the region to make certain their PPP legal frameworks reflect best market practice and reach a high standard. We need the expertise of U.S. financial services firms and private investors to help in that work and to help define a system in which they are able and willing to participate. Otherwise, our efforts to de-risk the investment environment will only benefit our competitors.
Up to this point, I’ve spoken in relatively abstract terms about how we can work together and what we’re focusing on, but I can assure you that our undertakings have real-world expression.
So now, I want to take this opportunity to talk about an important upcoming example of how we are working toward creating genuine and robust connetions between U.S. companies and the region. I’m happy to share that we are planning a Caribbean Region Trade Mission and Business Conference for October.
This program will offer U.S. companies the opportunity to explore the fourteen markets in the Caribbean Region.
The Trade Americas – Business Opportunities in the Caribbean Region Conference will feature region-specific sessions, market entry strategies, export compliance, legal, logistics, disaster resilience and recovery and trade financing resources. We have included in the program sessions on financing and legal/transparency issues, which I hope you will find useful.
While we are not yet certain whether pandemic conditions will allow an in-person program or require it to be held virtually, or some sort of hybrid model – we do know that we are committed to connecting U.S. companies to the tremendous opportunities in the Caribbean region, including here in Trinidad and Tobago.
We will be offering match making services for U.S. companies interested in the Trinidad & Tobago market and will help identify and connect potential partners.
Please let me and my team know if you are interested in learning more about the conference.
So in concluding these remarks, let me return to our three areas of emphasis. We are focused on Competitiveness, Transparency and Security because we have identified them as pillars on which we can help build economic growth and job creation in the United States and in the Caribbean more broadly to support recovery.
At a more granular level we are working to:
There are many common challenges across the region, including addressing climate change, accelerating energy transition, ensuring security, improving healthcare, and the need to build infrastructure.
Our efforts to address them cannot and should not be developed by governments alone.
Our business communities are incredible strategic assets. The modern reality is that our economic and commercial vitality are as important as our military and diplomatic strength.
Our private sectors must also be key partners in enhancing regional competitiveness, increasing regional stability, and promoting democratic values.
I believe that the United States acts in its own and in the region’s best interest when we help neighboring nations build open economies and create opportunity for all of their people.
Let me assure you that the United States will remain a steadfast and committed partner as we work to move our region towards its enormous potential as an engine of growth, opportunity and poverty reduction for its own citizens and for the global economy.
We look forward to working with your members, the broader U.S. private sector, and the governments in the region to bring solutions to these challenges.
Thank you again for the opportunity to address you this afternoon. I wish you a fruitful conference and look forward to another occasion to meet with you – in prosperous and healthy times.
It is an honour to virtually stand before you today as the 16th President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T). A business chamber that has always been best characterized by the altruistic actions of people committed to making a difference in the lives of others. So I begin by thanking our outgoing President, Patricia Ghany. Thank you Pat for the visionary leadership you brought to this organization. Of particular note during Pat’s tenure was a milestone that was achieved due to her commitment to empowering women in business and society; that was in achieving gender parity on our Board. I am pleased to say, this is something that we have maintained with this current Board with 9 women and 7 men. In 2021 and beyond, we will continue to lead with a commitment to diversity at the heart of our operations and publicly advocate for measures to create a society with fewer inequalities and more opportunities for all.
As you can see we have a very diverse and dynamic set of Directors on our Board, who are committed to the organisation’s ideals. We will continue to work through our hardworking committees who faithfully execute the organization’s vision and ensure AMCHAM remains the preferred business service organization in Trinidad and Tobago.
This of course can only be done with the professional service and commitment of our Secretariat, led by our CEO Nirad Tewarie. Our Secretariat rises to each challenge and binds together as a team, taking great pride in the service and value that they provide to members. Thanks to all of you at the Secretariat for the service, and dedication you have demonstrated in spite of the challenges we face at this moment to keep AMCHAM’s business and services running for the benefit our members. And for organising today’s AGM and Business Forum I thank Hema Son Son and Michelle Lagan for their work.
To you, our members, we very much appreciate your confidence in us and for your feedback in our many engagements over the last year, which have helped us to tailor our initiatives to better serve you. We look forward to meeting in person soon!
One of the ways in which we will be able to make this a reality sooner than later is to progress with vaccinations. All around the world one can see the evidence that countries that have pursued aggressive vaccination programmes are showing signs of a faster return to normal. In a short while we will hear from Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ian Saunders and we thank his government for their expected vaccine donations to our country and the region. Locally, we are pleased to see the recent progress on that front and encourage everyone to do their part in getting us back to normalcy as soon as we can.
In this regard, AMCHAM has been working with other chambers and private sector organisations on a pro-vaccination campaign that will encourage citizens to “Take D Jab Jab.” This catchy slogan is meant to unite us against the common enemy we all face today: COVID-19. This is not the time to allow fear to take control. This is not the time to point fingers, to lay blame or to see how we can have our personal opinions drown out the voices of others. There has been enough of that in the past year. It is a time for collaboration – a time for solving problems collectively, a time to put all else aside and to move forward together. Today, we must “Take D Jab Jab” because we want to eat a bake and shark at Maracas Bay, or watch cricket at the Oval, or take part in our many national and religious festivals, or just simply hug an old friend or family member we have not seen in a while. Of course, the value of having the nation’s workforce and productivity levels ramp back up to optimal levels cannot be understated – a point on which I will elaborate a bit further in a few moments.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many local artistes and social media personalities who lent their voices and time to this Take D Jab Jab effort and to the artists and organisations who allowed us to use their building facades to help promote this campaign with wall art. AMCHAM T&T will continue working with the government’s vaccine administration process and, while we recognise it is a personal choice, we hope those of you who can, when it’s your turn, that you too will do your part and Take D Jab Jab!
For AMCHAM however, doing our part isn’t new and didn’t start with this vaccine advocacy. All throughout the pandemic, we have been trying to do our part. We collaborated with the Restore a Sense of I Can on their Girls in ICT Day, we worked with the US Embassy and the Arthur Ashe Institute to do a summer programme for children in at-risk communities, which included the provision of almost two dozen laptops. Recently, we facilitated the donation of oxygen concentrators and other vital equipment from SEWA TT to the Ministry of Health through collaboration with our members Amerijet and Ramps Logistics to support our nation's efforts to battle COVID-19. We also hosted webinars on mental health, business continuity planning, enhancing trade and investment opportunities, and so much more.
Now even though we are still in a time of crisis, we must remain optimistic for a brighter future. Indeed it is also a time of great opportunity. It is a time for a new vision, for long term strategy and long-term planning and for collaboration. We must look at the new horizon that awaits us with the same bold assertiveness, resilience, and adaptability we demonstrated when we were forced us to adjust to a new normal. There is nothing that we can’t achieve or accomplish in this new horizon if we learn from our mistakes and channel the creativity, industriousness and innovation that was birthed during this disruptive phase and allow it to continue transforming our lives and our world.
In this regard, AMCHAM T&T is ready to make the commitment on 3 main areas of strategic focus that we see as being key to future-proofing our economy and they are 1) the Recovery of the Economy, 2) The use of Technology and 3) the preparation of our Youth and the Workforce for the Future.
The question today is how can we make the pandemic situation a pivot point to a new future for Trinidad and Tobago? The simple answer starts with businesses being able to recover and bounce back strongly. For this to happen, we have to re-instill confidence in the economy. Confidence stemming from meaningful collaboration and dialogue followed by consistent and decisive action. As we seek to find opportunities out of the crisis, we need a plan. We need a big vision with clear objectives and targets.
A key element to recovery will be attracting additional Foreign Direct Investment. It will also require significant local investment. Liquidity in the financial system is high. Local companies are listing on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, and some are even moving their headquarters there. We have to make Trinidad and Tobago a more attractive place to do business.
One of the ways in which we can do this is by having strong institutions and these institutions must be supported by laws such as the Public Procurement Legislation, which is an absolute necessity if we aim to recover successfully. The full operationalization of this Act has been long in coming and we reiterate our call on the Government to act now.
RULE OF LAW
The rule of law is also a key prerequisite to investment attraction and a welcoming business environment. Countries that display a commitment to the Rule of Law often have high levels of economic freedom, social mobility, and economic growth.
Indeed, the US Chamber of Commerce hosts the Rule of Law Coalition. And you will hear from Kendra Gaither, the Executive Director of that Coalition in a short while to explain how Trinidad and Tobago compares to other countries and why the Rule of Law matters in attracting investment.
As you know, AMCHAM T&T is a member of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA). This is the hemispheric association of the 25 AmChams in this hemisphere. At the AACCLA, on whose Board our Past President Patricia Ghany and CEO Nirad Tewarie sit, a Rule of Law Committee has been established to work on improving the rule of law in the countries of this hemisphere. We’re sure that you will agree that enhanced transparency and consistent application of rules are good for business and absolutely necessary for the attraction of investment.
As such, over the coming months, AMCHAM T&T will be working with the US Embassy and other stakeholders locally on a series of RoL initiatives with the possibility of establishing a multi-stakeholder, Rule of Law Committee.
TECH SECTOR DEVELOPMENT
Another strategic area of focus for AMCHAM T&T moving forward is the development of a tech sector in Trinidad and Tobago, which we believe will be a key enabler for the recovery and future competitiveness of this country. As we seek to build other sectors of the scale and quality as our oil, gas and petrochemical industries, we are certain that it is possible to create a tech sector in Trinidad and Tobago that is globally competitive and that will include a mix of foreign and local companies.
With efforts focused on re-shoring and nearshoring, coupled with the transformation imperatives laid bare by the pandemic, we have a golden opportunity to make the goal of creating a tech hub, a reality. In addition to the benefits of creating a tech industry, we also have to harness the transformative power of technology. In this vein, the digital transformation of businesses and of Government agencies and processes will be key to a successful recovery.
We recognize the priority the government has placed on this and are eagerly awaiting tangible outcomes and indeed opportunities emerging from the Cabinet-appointed Digital Transformation Advisory
Committee’s work and the line Ministry’s two-year transformation programme. On AMCHAM’S immediate agenda with technology I remind you to join us in less than two weeks for the third edition of our Tech Hub Islands Summit featuring global tech experts.
WORKFORCE OF THE FUTURE
The third strategic pillar of AmCham will be on Youth and preparing the Workforce of the Future.
Attention must be paid to building a “Culture of Curiosity” that molds a cadre of young people with analytical thinking skills and other critical skills for the future. This requires significant work that must be done in examining the role of schools and on the current curriculum. While the pandemic has shown that online school cannot work in totality, we have seen many new tools and techniques being incorporated into the way teachers teach and how students learn. Therefore, our education system must see technical and vocational skills ranging from specific software to soft-skill training as investments into our future. This is how we build the workforce of the future that will make Trinidad and Tobago competitive intellectually and economically.
While we actively invest in our young people, we still require a concerted commitment to working collaboratively today, to achieve our goals. Let us not simply pay lip service to working differently. We have a very real opportunity today, to immediately embrace new ways of working - a hybrid model of sorts – which allows for flexibility for both the employer and the employee in how we mobilize our workforce, the tools we use to conduct business and how we create a modernized climate to support and sustain these types of changes. This mindset is required in several spheres, including the requisite shift away from a traditionally adversarial industrial relations climate, to one which collaboratively and pragmatically assesses and onboards changes that can bring about value and increase the quality of life of our citizenry. As a simple example, by taking advantage of what we have learned and applied during COVID in both the private and public sectors, we can alter traffic levels on our roadways, push the delivery of more services to the digital realm and leverage technology to our mutual benefit.
I know it may seem that these are some tough times right now and that these commitments may seem like just another set of lofty goals we have all heard of before. But if we can’t see the opportunities past the crisis, then we are bound to keep repeating the same mistakes that have left us immobile and less productive that we ought to be.
COVID-19 may have altered our reality, but it hasn’t knocked us out yet. We still have time to put things back together, not entirely the way it was before the pandemic, but perhaps how it should have been all along. I’m talking about a world with more collaboration among competing actors and agencies, more inclusive spaces for different persons, allowing the rule of law to work for and not against us, and just simply having the vision to do things differently to achieve greater results. If there is just one word that you take away today from these remarks – let it be that extremely powerful word – collaboration! It is our hope that through collaboration with you our members and with other key stakeholders that we will achieve these results!
I thank you once more for this incredible honour to serve you as the President of AMCHAM T&T and I look forward to engaging with each of you as we work towards building a more progressive and business-friendly environment in Trinidad and Tobago.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us today.
I am Melissa Pierre, Senior Trade and Policy Specialist of AMCHAM T&T and I have the honour of welcoming you to the launch of our 25th Annual Health, Safety, Security, and the Environment (HSSE) Conference.
I would like to start by extending our condolences and sympathy to the families who have lost a loved one due to COVID-19 over the past year. Indeed this past month has been very difficult for a lot of us and we understand and sympathize with the pain and trauma this virus has unleashed. During times like this, we must support each other and trust that our systems will work for us. So, let us each do our part to help flatten the curve once more and save lives. Let’s follow all of the guidelines and make sure that we each get our vaccine jabs when they become available.
Now, in the midst of all of this pain and tragedy, we are gathered today virtually because we believe it is important to recognize the value of leading with health and safety at the heart of all our operations and in everything we do. Certainly, this moment of crisis and tragedy has pushed us even more into recognizing just how important it is to put individual and societal health and well-being at the center of what we do.
Yes, the past year has been difficult. There has been a great deal of loss, longing and letting go with which to come to terms. Yet, even in the middle of any crisis, the human condition has always leaned towards adapting and leading with resilience. And so, slowly but surely, we took ahold of the new normal instead of letting it take control of our lives. We learned to pivot and thereby introduce new methods of doing things once thought to be familiar or routine. We adapted so we could evolve, and we rethink and we reimagine a world so we could thrive.
That's why today as we seek to celebrate 25 years in HSSE leadership and excellence, the theme "Learn, Evolve, Thrive" is most fitting because not only does it shape the narrative of our experiences over this past year but it defines the story of our journey during these past 25 years of promoting HSSE Excellence and Leadership.
Indeed, achieving a 25-year milestone in anything is worth celebrating because you don’t get to such a place without a lot of hard work, commitment, dedication, and most importantly, support. Championing these issues for the past 25 years would mean very little if we didn’t have people and companies willing to invest in taking care of their employee’s health and keeping them safe while doing everything possible to protect the environment for our communities and citizens. That continuous collaboration and support are the biggest achievement we can boast about from these 25 years and that’s what continues to motivate us on this topic.
I want to say a special thank you to all of the companies who have partnered with us on this journey. Today we have Atlantic LNG as our title sponsor once more. We thank them for the leadership they have shown on this issue over the years. Atlantic has built a solid reputation as one of the world's largest producers of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). We know that this achievement could not have happened had it not been for the commitment they have shown towards putting the health and safety of their people first.
And they are joined by so many other companies who have been doing excellent work in this field. We welcome back our Platinum Sponsors – NGC group of companies, bpTT, and Shell our Gold Sponsors - Nu Iron Unlimited and Point Lisas Nitrogen Limited and our session sponsor- Green Engineering. Every year, they are quick to come on board as sponsors because they work tirelessly to invest in people.
The Conference and Exhibition would not be possible without the support of the hard-working AMCHAM T&T HSE committee - chaired by Cindi Nandlal and vice-chairs Balchan Jadoonanan and Travis Gayah. We thank them for their strong leadership on these important issues.
We have also seen this leadership spill across many industries across every sector over these past 25 years. Companies, big and small, have stepped up to the plate and exceeded our expectations as it relates to cultivating a culture of HSSE leadership and excellence within their respective workplaces. And over this past year, we were proud to see how quickly many of these companies adapted to this new normal and secured the safety of their employees. Whether it was transitioning to remote work or pivoting to new safety systems, providing mental health support or just checking in on their employees to make sure they were coping well during these difficult times, to a large extent, companies made sure they put their people first.
That’s exactly what we are saying about health and safety. Implementing new systems and processes, and enforcing new regulations may do well to reduce risk and prevent hazards or injuries but if the central focus of these new measures isn’t placed on people, then all we are doing is just creating more rules. That doesn’t mean that HSSE policies aren’t supposed to be improved or modified to adjust to new realities or unforeseen risks. Quite the opposite. What we are saying is that to make sure that we are always at the forefront of keeping our people safe, we have to constantly learn from our past mistakes, adapt to the new circumstances and be willing to evolve so that we are always preparing for a new normal even if that may be far away on the horizon. We must also create cultures of trust and collaboration.
That’s the reason we have always said that “promoting HSSE excellence doesn’t just make good business sense, it also saves lives.” That’s why this topic remains so important and relevant to all of us at AMCHAM T&T.
This year’s conference will be 100% virtual again because we are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our speakers and attendees. It also shows how quickly we have been able to adapt and evolve as we embrace the challenges of our present circumstances.
We have an exciting line up of top-notch speakers of international acclaim and recognition joining our local experts who have been spearheading the HSSE revolution in T&T for the past 25 years and beyond. Our conference agenda and topics will once more explore how we are embracing the new trends and concepts that have been transitioning HSSE into a new era.
We started this work a couple of years ago when we included important topics such as Mental Health, Cybersecurity, and issues related to Climate Change on the agenda. Today, we know how important these issues are because it is now our current reality, so the conversations aren’t going to stop. Instead, we are going to advance the conversation so that we start seeing a real change to these important and timely issues affecting our world.
Learning and evolving to thrive meant that we must highlight the most influential and forward-thinking leaders who are leading a new wave of theory and practice that have been elevating the conversations we have been having on HSSE policies and the overall safety culture. This is why last year, we brought you Nippin Anand, Sydney Dekker, and Todd Conklin. Their contributions have revolutionized how we approach safety in the workplace and elevated the conversation we are having around HSSE systems and policies. This year we have more dynamic and exciting speakers joining our lineup. That’s how we learn, evolve, and thrive!
As I said, celebrating 25 years of excellence means that we always looking to stay ahead of the curve! That’s what we have been doing with the Caribbean’s leading HSSE Conference for the past 25 years and that’s what we will continue to do for the next 25 years because as we said, at the heart of HSSE is people. Without protecting the safety of our people, we have nothing for which to thrive.
As I conclude, let me remind you to check out the official 25th Annual Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) 2021 Conference Website at www.amchamtt.com. There, you will find all the information about our speakers, sponsors, agenda, sessions, topics, registration details, and much more. We look forward to the support of each of you.
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
It is truly an honour to share a few words with you at the virtual launch of our 4th AMCHAM T&T/ IDB Women in Leadership Mentoring Programme.
As we progress through and past the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs women leaders more than ever. A new future is currently unfolding, one that needs to take into account the skills, leadership and resources provided by women.
According to Harvard Business Review, “companies want leaders who are able to pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough; who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling. Our analysis shows that these are traits that are more often being displayed by women.”
These are also the skills many great leaders are known for. Therefore, there is no reason why women should not have a place or position in the boardrooms across every company and corporation in the world. The climb can be steep, and the glass ceiling is real. But that does not mean it can’t be cracked, and one day, fully shattered! And that’s exactly what we hope to accomplish with this Mentorship Programme. We need to create those opportunities where women can see themselves playing a major role and succeeding in positions of leadership.
We see the impact this pandemic is having on women’s employment around the world. Experts are calling it the “she-cession” era where the fear is that more women would remain unemployed once the pandemic is over. So, picking up the pieces and moving forward cannot come at the expense and disposal of our women from the labor force. We have come too far as a society to be making the same mistakes we did in the past. That’s why I am saying that every company today must increase their diversity mandate and ensure that women are retained in their previous positions. But let’s not stop there. Apart from retaining your female employees, how about we start hiring more women and providing leadership opportunities for them?
Mentorship programs helps in this regard because it dismantles the roadblocks women face when they ask for more or try to elevate their positions. Companies providing mentorship as a career accelerator are showing women that they value their contributions, respect their voices, and are willing to invest in women to help them grow and succeed. So, my hope is that we will see more glass ceilings being shattered in a post-pandemic world because when that happens, women will know that the opportunities exist for them to find their voice, claim their space, and lead with success.
According to the Chinese proverb, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. Today marks the beginning of a new journey for each of you as either mentors or mentees. This mentorship program is expected to challenge as well as inspire you to make changes in your lives that will lead you to the path of success. The knowledge, advice and lessons you will learn will hopefully bring a new perspective on how you view yourselves, how you adjust to new situations, and what you believe is possible for your own personal growth and development.
I want to remind you today that every woman is a natural-born leader even if she may not fully believe this. Far too often, as women we allow ourselves to let doubt creep into our minds, convincing us that we are not worthy enough for that raise, or we aren’t deserving enough for that promotion, or we don’t have a voice loud enough that will command respect and authority. When we allow ourselves to believe in these things, we are stripping away our power as natural-born leaders.
To our class of 28 mentees and 26 mentors, let me say thank you for your participation in this year’s mentorship programme. The success of this year’s programme depends on you, and how much you are willing to give and receive. Mentors you have the experience, the knowledge and the wisdom to know what it takes to become a successful and effective leader. We won’t be creating real change if you hold all of these lessons to yourself. As U.S. women’s rights pioneer Margaret Fuller once said, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” That’s how we create a gender-equal world where everyone has a fair chance to succeed.
And to our mentees, take full advantage of the advice and counsel your mentors will provide. Accept the challenges they may throw at you, don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek clarification when you are unsure about something, and remember to always be willing to learn not just to grow but to inspire. Remember, you may be mentees today but tomorrow you will be someone’s mentor. So, the change starts with you.
At AMCHAM T&T, we are always grateful to partners who share our collective vision and are willing to uphold the principles we adopt. Therefore, once more I would like to thank our partners at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for their generous support and unwavering commitment to this Mentorship Programme. We would not be here hosting this 4th cohort without your expertise and resources.
I also want to thank my eight Board members who have volunteered to be part of this Mentorship Program. Thank you to our CEO, Nirad Tewarie for continuing to show strong leadership on this very important issue. And I also must thank Miss Rey-Anne Paynter-Mendez and everyone at the Secretariat for their hard work and dedication they have put into this year’s programme.
Thank you so much everyone and please follow the COVID-19 guidelines so that we can all stay safe and protect each other from this virus.
Nirad Tewarie, AMCHAM T&T CEO at Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference 2019
Good Morning everyone and thank you for joining us today.
I am Nirad Tewarie, CEO of AMCHAM T&T and I have the honour of welcoming you to the launch of our annual Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference 2021.
This is our third edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit or t.h.i.s. Last year, we had a unique edition of the conference where we had to break it up because of the pandemic and so what we did was a series of events as opposed to a single conference. In 2019, we launched t.h.i.s. and by all accounts, it was a resounding success. We exceeded our number of participants with more than 300 people attending, the satisfaction was above 97 % and we had some really stimulating conversations. At the time we thought we were catalysing the digital transformation discussion, but little did we know the discussion would be catalysed even further and faster by the events of 2020.
Before I begin, I would like to take a moment on behalf of the organization and the Board of Directors to offer condolences - because while we talk about the positive impact on business and the digital transformation journey - COVID-19 has reaped havoc on families, it has wreaked havoc in many different ways including the loss of lives and livelihood. It’s not been positive for everyone and what I think as a society we have to try and do is to find ways to help where we can and use the tools we can to soften the impact now and create opportunities after. In the meantime, we each have to play our part and try our best to do what we can to curb the spread of the virus.
Now in the midst of all of that, Trinidad and Tobago has always been a resilient nation. We complain, we love to poke fun, but we adapt. We are always quick to adapt to any storm that is poised to derail whatever plans and hopes we once had for our future. We saw this many times over the past 15 months and we continue to see this. When we were faced with new challenges and changes to our usual habits and customs, the best and the brightest of us shine through in our darkest moments. In fact, that’s a general feature of Caribbean people. There is no reason why this can’t happen again. And that brings us to where we are today.
Three years ago, we brought some of the leading experts in the world of technology into one room. We invited more than 300 companies to be part of this nexus of change and innovation. We wanted to create conversations and collaboration among industry leaders and ultimately build the Tech Hub Islands Summit as the fulcrum of our nation becoming one of the leading tech hubs in the world.
We don’t now have all of the answers. Maybe not even a detailed roadmap to achieve this. At least not yet. So, now is not the time for bold statements from us. I’m not going to try and put forward something revolutionary. It’s just time to do the work.
Our goal is clear. AMCHAM T&T will be the catalyst for making T&T a global tech hub. We will forge the partnerships to enable us to achieve this goal and we will work tirelessly, creatively, and methodically to make this goal a reality.
We will not sit by and hope for diversification ‘to happen’. We will not sit by and hope for investment to come into T&T. We will work hard, and we will work tirelessly to make these a reality. Along the way, we might stumble but we will get back up. We will hold the hands of our partners as we hope they will hold ours. We will find the innovators. We will enable them. And one day soon, we will be able to say that THIS happened. THIS is T&T – a global technology hub!
While we still have some ways to go before we meet this goal, we believe that creating a tech ecosystem will contribute significantly to future growth and sustainability. So, we cannot standstill. We cannot seek to deploy, invest in or adapt technology that, by the time of implementation, becomes old technology. We have to constantly look forward. Developing our tech sector for other markets and earning foreign exchange. Using the new knowledge to transform local businesses. After all, every business today is at least partly a tech business.
This journey would be easier if both the private and public sectors were transforming together. So, we welcome the work being done at the Government level, in particular through the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation and through agencies such as the TTIFC and iGovTT. Indeed, our own Zia Patton who is the chair of AMCHAM T&T's Digital Transformation Committee also sits on the Cabinet subcommittee of Digitization. Undoubtedly, they are key partners and indeed drivers in the process of developing our Tech Hub Islands and we look forward to continuing to work with them.
As we partner, the dreaming must not stop! That’s why t.h.i.s. is themed “Now and Beyond”. At this year’s Conference, the story we are telling is not about becoming complacent with what seems to work now. Instead, we must consistently and constantly look ahead so that we are always chasing our dreams, while those dreams hurtle us to a brighter future.
Recognizing that technology is growing at a rapid pace and waiting on no one, is crucial to us actually reaping the rewards from investments in a tech ecosystem. Therefore, it isn’t enough to just digitally transform our operations because we’re solving ‘now’ problems, the real success is using technology and digital transformation to take us beyond the ‘now’ problem. That means we must diagnose, deploy and solve for what’s beyond! That’s when we know technology is working for us. And ultimately, we should be developing our Tech Hub Islands because it will contribute to building a future with fewer inequalities and more opportunities for everyone.
So, we want you to move beyond with us and imagine a world where we are not just adopting technology, but where we are also developing the next wave of innovation. This wave will see us relying more heavily on “third platforms” technologies with the convergence of mobile, cloud, internet of things (IoT) blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), big data and robotics that will alter even more how we live, how we perform transactions, and ultimately, how we drive decisions to conduct business and our lives. And we must do this not just as consumers but also as creators.
This year, the conference will be hosted over three interactive days from July 5th to 7th, 2021 and it will be 100% virtual to maintain public health and safety. This shows how quickly we have adapted and embraced the technologies that will allow us to reach a much wider audience and ensure all attendees are safe. Once more, we have invited some of the leading thinkers and influencers in the world of technology who are part of the global tech ecosystem, already reimagining and reinventing businesses, government processes and indeed, entire countries. We have dynamic speakers from companies such as Google, PWC, SAP, VISA, the IDB, Republic Bank, Digicel, World Economic Forum. And many more will be added in the coming weeks.
Our speakers will look at both public and private sector innovation and the accelerated urgency to adapt to the changing circumstances and needs. At t.h.i.s. 2021, we will take a look at where we are right now in our digital transformation journey, where we should be heading, and the steps we need to take now to ensure that we get there and move beyond!
This year we also have a strong lineup of sponsors who are once more supporting us and for whom we are eternally grateful. We welcome back our Title Sponsor, Republic Bank Limited who joined us with a leap of faith in year one and committed to three years of sponsorship and return again this year. Our Platinum Sponsors, PwC and Digicel Business are more than just sponsors. Their ideas, contributions and sponsorship value are highly appreciated and enable us to do all the things we do and attract the kind of speakers that we do. Our Gold Sponsor, The Inter-American Development Bank also has been with us from day one and has been finding innovative ways to continue the partnership with AMCHAM T&T.
We want to thank all our sponsors for their support and partnership on this very important and worthwhile set of issues. Like each of our sponsors, we believe that our nation’s future growth and sustainability is dependent on the right investments being made today and the infusion of technology within all aspects of our society. We hope t.h.i.s. will once more spark great dialogue, worthwhile partnerships and actions that will help us realize a new technological frontier beyond that which we have now.
As I conclude, let me remind you to check out the official t.h.i.s. 2021 Conference Website at www.techislands.net. There, you will find all the information about our speakers, sponsors, agenda, sessions, topics, registration details and much more. We look forward to each of your support.
I must thank you for the invitation to participate today, in the launch of AMCHAM’s “THIS” (Tech Hub Island Summit) webinar series, revolving around the world’s new favourite buzz term: Digital Transformation. I was recently appointed General Manager of Digicel Business, just about 5 months ago; and I distinctly remember the national and global temperature of the business community as many companies successfully navigated toward technology, whilst many others struggled and some even failed. I remember thinking, what can I do to help businesses pivot, and survive as I was now at the helm of one of the region’s largest business telecommunications providers, at a time when the world needed technology the most. And well I figured it out… I needed to encourage collaboration and ensure that I was the best partner that anyone could ask for.
The term Digital transformation was already gaining traction before COVID-19 emerged and now, it is mentioned ad nauseam. Nevertheless, the real question is, have businesses actually leaned into real digital transformation? Think about it.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a significant impact on economies around the world, with many, including the economy of Trinidad and Tobago becoming constricted and constrained.
Digicel Business recently surveyed more than 700 companies here in the T&T market and our latest findings are quite telling:
Although working from home, using applications like Microsoft 365 or Teams, is part of Digital Transformation… that is not all. Leveraging technology to its fullest potential lies at the heart of digital transformation - and it is something that we all should be fully committed to as a business community. I can assure you that at Digicel, it’s a priority for us.
This is why, even though we never became complacent in our position as a traditional telecommunications provider in the region, we pivoted our business to align with the trajectory of the market and our customers. Hence, we are now a Digital Operator; and we are focused on helping other companies make the transition by embracing digital transformation, and equipping them with the right tools, service and expertise. We understand the importance of being a good partner to helping the business community transition, and today I urge you to also be good partners. While we’re on the topic of partnership, I also want to emphasize the significance of having great partners like AMCHAM. It’s a partnership that we at Digicel truly appreciate because as we collaborate, we can only be Better Together. Through these kinds of business events hosted by AMCHAM we can create spaces where partnership truly flourishes – and this type of cooperation is necessary to make the digital leap.
The fact is that digital transformation is no longer a nice phrase to be thrown around. It is an economic necessity. Currently the climate in Trinidad & Tobago is one where market segments and people with disposable income have been reduced. One of the major questions companies are now asking themselves is: “How do we innovate to ensure that we can maintain similar pre-pandemic levels of revenue?” The answer is digital transformation – and to be clear, it is not just about some companies doing some activities digitally. It is about looking at your entire business model and the associated processes, to see how you can leverage technology and migrate those processes to becoming digital.
We know it’s possible because we’ve helped SME’s (like small barbershops) to large conglomerates (including some of the largest regional financial and medical institutions) transform their business digitally.
While the State of Emergency curtails the amount of business that can be done physically, and halts the mechanics of others, it creates an opportunity for business activity online. Not to mention, we anticipate that when it is lifted, there will be pent up demand. The companies that will be in a position to leverage supply to these spaces through digital machinery will be successful. And today, I hope that participants get inspired and see the opportunities of how technology can expand your reach, consolidate your footprint, increase your efficiency, streamline your processes and position you for success.
Let’s discuss how we are digitally transforming our economy and how we can all work together toward that common goal.
Welcome to the future, we’re living it…. and it’s digital.
Derwin Howell at AMCHAM T&T's Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.) Conference 2019 (file photo)
Good morning everyone.
Over the past year, the global community has become familiar with so many buzzwords - pivot, digital transformation, e-commerce, contactless, virtual and the list goes on - this, in addition to our burgeoning pandemic jargon.
As a result, there are myriad references that tout the virtual space as our new global reality. The fact that we have gathered in this forum virtually is proof of that now ubiquitous online existence. For some of us, this may be a welcome reality, for others, understandably the opposite.
Humans are interactive, social creatures; we value being in the company of others. Since March 2020, we've been forced to ‘shelter in place’ in various forms, as we seek to create an environment that is less hospitable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Fortunately, technology has come to our rescue to bridge the gap between friends and family, between home and work, between consumers and businesses and between governments and citizens.
Not unlike many other businesses across the globe, Republic bank has had to focus on making the "virtual" a deeper part of our reality.
While baffling to some, it's well-known that some customers like to come to branches to complete their transactions, but more importantly, to interact with other customers and employees with whom they have become familiar. And that's a common feature of banking culture in this part of the world, really.
So, the claim that "virtual" is our new reality was and is more of a cultural shift. In the context of the pandemic, the face of banking has changed. Face to face is becoming less and less the reality – and when it does, that face better have a mask on it – the ultimate irony. Banking and other businesses now exist online or as much as our local landscape will allow, but how do we encourage the national community to accept that reality? Not just for banking, but for every facet of life.
In this context I use the term “local landscape” to encompass the local payments system, businesses’ ability to accept and fulfil client requests online, and importantly, government’s ability to transact in an online world.
Several gaps in this landscape have prevented us from pivoting as quickly and as completely as we could to live in this new paradigm and therefore require immediate attention.
The saying ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ is apt. We should be using the challenges brought on by the pandemic to take a critical look at our local landscape and to bootstrap our various systems to allow for a more efficient society in the post-Covid era; whenever that may be.
Our aim should be rapid national implementation with cross-sector cooperation. No consumer, business or government department should be left behind due to hesitation, lack of resources, or lack of knowledge. And most importantly, the virtual shift should not be viewed as a chore, but as a valued amenity; indeed a national necessity.
For most businesses there are three (3) main aspects that need review:
2. Fulfilment; and
And each comes with its own level of complexity and challenge.
In the case of the government and government agencies, on the payment side there exists legislative hurdles that must be overcome.
I was heartened to see a recently issued circular letter from the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago advising of its consultation with market players on a draft policy proposal document for a payments systems bill for Trinidad and Tobago. Such consultations and the realization of the resulting legislation cannot come fast enough.
Truth be told, though, even in the absence of these legislative enablers for government payments, across the region and here at home, all manner of businesses, small and large, have answered the call to adapt to this new reality, and with varying levels of success have introduced a layer of technology to meet their clients’ needs.
While computer-based technology has been at the forefront of a lot of these changes, I must also mention creativity and innovation are key to some of these approaches even when they don’t involve technology. I am sure that we can all remember the concept of “deconstructed doubles!”
Another example that we at Republic Bank are particularly proud of is the local design and construction of several Isopods by local company Laser Solutions Limited for the country’s Regional Health Authorities.
An Isopod is an Individual Patient Isolation System that helps transport patients who have an infectious disease. While during the pandemic they will largely be used to transport Covid-19 patients they can be also utilized for cancer patients and even burn victims. The key is a willingness to re-think our businesses and come at things from a different direction.
On the services side, I am sure that we have all by now experienced the convenience of the likes of FOODDROP, WiEat and Skip D Line. You can now order groceries for curbside pick up or even home delivery. Even sporting goods store have introduced home delivery of exercise equipment and gear. And for a shameless plug, more recently we would have seen Republic Bank introduce the contactless payment solution ENDCASH and I hope that all of you here have already signed up!
While these changes may be a survival method for most and a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic for others, it proves that Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to make “virtual” a bigger part of our reality. ‘Virtual’ has infiltrated our workplaces, our schools and even our places of worship. For those who may be sceptical and suspicious of a virtual workplace, we should see the digitising of operations not as a threat to employees but as a way of freeing them to do more rewarding work in interacting with our clients. Consumers should see it as a way to save time which they can divert to doing more of the things that they enjoy. Businesses and governments should see it as a way of enhancing employee skillsets and creating a more capable workforce. It is not about removing the human element, but enhancing it by investing in alternative work options, ease of doing business, digital and contactless business solutions and models.
At this weekend’s Ministry of Health briefing on Covid-19, I heard Minister Deyalsingh speak to the spinning up an online system for registration for appointments for the Covid-19 vaccine. Immediately I saw that opportunity for that to be extended to a mobile-based vaccine record system which will allow vaccinated citizens to display a certified record of their vaccination status on their smartphone. Let’s not let a good crisis go to waste and find a way to introduce systems that can have life after the pandemic.
The steps we have taken as a national community towards technological diversification are small and growing, and they represent the willingness and ability to strengthen Trinidad and Tobago's tech ecosystem, to improve the overall efficiency of our society and ultimately to grow our local economy.
Republic Bank stands with AMCHAM and other sponsors to make "virtual" a deeper part of Trinidad and Tobago's reality and it is once again our pleasure to be associated with the TECH HUB ISLANDS SUMMIT!
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