LINKAGE Q2 (2021) - Now & Beyond
By Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, President of AMCHAM T&T
It is an immense honour and privilege to be appointed as the 16th President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T). My journey with this organisation began 13 years ago, when I was first elected to the Board in 2008. During this period, I have come to realise that this is a chamber best characterised by the altruistic actions of people committed to making a difference in the lives of others.
I want to begin my first President’s message for Linkage by thanking our outgoing President, Patricia Ghany for the visionary leadership she has brought to this organisation. I am extremely proud to follow in Pat’s footsteps, especially after her hard work resulted in AMCHAM T&T achieving the milestone of gender parity on our Board.
I am pleased to say that after our recent Annual General Meeting 2021, this is something that we have maintained with the current Board of Directors comprised of 9 women and 7 men. Moving forward, my mission is to ensure that AMCHAM T&T continues to lead with diversity at the heart of our operations and to publicly advocate for measures that would create a society with fewer inequalities and more opportunities for all.
Even though we are still in a time of crisis and disruption, it is my view that we must remain optimistic for a brighter future. We must see the opportunities past the crisis. We must view this moment as a time for a new vision, for long-term strategy and planning, and a time for collaboration.
That word “collaboration” is so important right now, especially as we move beyond the present reality and look towards the future. Building that progressive society begins with putting aside our differences and working together again if we expect to see better results. The lessons we have learned this past year have taught us that we are so much greater as a nation when we are united towards a common goal.
I strongly do believe that goal today is built around the technology that has kept us working, communicating and moving forward in an era defined by having to socially distance, quarantine, and be confined to our homes. So, when we speak about the theme: Now and Beyond, we are talking about investing in tech as a key enabler for the recovery and future competitiveness of this country.
At AMCHAM T&T, we join the moment to create a tech sector in Trinidad and Tobago that will be globally competitive and that will include a mix of foreign and local companies. With the Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.), AMCHAM T&T is actively bringing together global tech leaders with the local private and public sectors to collaborate and to explore how we can be successful in our digital transformation journey.
We know the rewards we stand to gain from building the tech hub. Many of our goals can be achieved quicker with investments in technology. We can build a digital-based economy that produces a quicker, faster, and more efficient delivery of services for everyday transactions.
On the larger scale, think about the new industries that can be built from the dreams and hard work of innovative entrepreneurs and tech start-ups. Imagine all the new and exciting jobs that will be created. And pay attention to what we can do with the widening of the local talent pool through our much-heralded “innovative and competitive spirit”. We are talking about increasing productivity, attracting foreign direct investment, improving the ease of doing business and making our country an attractive place to do business.
Today 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 Government agencies and processes will be key to a successful recovery.
We also need a strong and robust governance framework to guide this tech ecosystem. We must implement the legislations on the Electronic Transactions Act, Data Protection Act and the Transfer of Funds Act. Also, a successful tech hub cannot run smoothly and effectively in the absence of free sharing of open data. Therefore, we need an open data policy, a fully functional National Statistical Institute and work toward assigning a single, unique national identification number to each citizen. Can you imagine how far ahead we could have been if we already had these laws implemented before the pandemic?
Finally, the vision for our nation is always in the dreams of youths. We must ask ourselves what kind of world are we creating and subsequently leaving behind for our children. Today, their world has been turned upside down and so too have their dreams for the future. We can right this wrong for them by building a world that provides greater opportunities while reducing so many inequalities. AMCHAM T&T believes the answer lies in technology. Allowing young people to interact with technology at an early age can open many doors for them in the future. AMCHAM T&T is embracing this concept with our upcoming breakbeatcode hackathon for youths with our partners at Google. This initiative will use hip-hop music to teach young people the basics of computer coding so that we are creating new career possibilities for our youths, such as becoming artists, engineers, computer programmers, software developers etc. This is how we are building the workforce of the future.
I know things may be difficult now, but let’s never forget that when we face hurdles, it is in our DNA to quickly access a situation, learn to adapt and lead with resilience as we embrace the promise of a brighter future. COVID-19 may have disrupted a lot of our norms, but it has also shown us the reality that technology is no longer just an option, but an economic necessity. It is my pleasure to present to you with this issue of LINKAGE - our annual tech issue! I hope you enjoy the content from our expert contributors and that it inspires you to lead more with technology.
By Nirad Tewarie - AMCHAM T&T CEO
What are we saying when we speak about technology being an enabler for growth and sustainable development? We have all heard the sales pitch before.
The promise of a viable and competitive tech sector will provide new and exciting opportunities for local tech startups and entrepreneurs, widening the local talent pool so that we retain and attract the best and the brightest, upskilling employees to increase productivity, attracting foreign direct investment to build on national development initiatives, and the list goes on and on.
It’s an excellent sales pitch and one that offers a lot of great promise and potential for our country as we transition from a place of economic uncertainty to economic growth and prosperity. I know we have heard this many times before. It’s the old story about investing heavily in one thing with the hope of many great returns to improve our quality of life. Perhaps that’s our problem. There’s been too much dreaming and very little doing.
Now I am not saying we need to stop dreaming! Quite the contrary. After all, every major technological breakthrough throughout history started with a dream. If we can't envision it, we can’t build it! So, what I am saying is that our dreaming must also lay down the blueprint we need to make those dreams a reality, not in the distant future but today, the present, now!
I have no doubt that we have the talent, the skill-set, the work ethic or the vision to make it happen. A prime example of this is the number of companies that quickly pivoted their operations utilising technology or created something new because of technology during one of the greatest disruptions we have ever faced so that they could maintain business continuity and survive. So, what is the problem?
The economic hardships we have faced in the past eighteen months and continue to face have shown us that technology is no longer just a nice luxury to have, but it’s an economic necessity.
Therefore, we owe it to ourselves to start using technology in the right way to help us zero in on some solutions. Those solutions will require greater collaboration and a national plan with actionable steps into which we can all buy and believe. Technology will be a critical enabler to achieve this vision.
listen, none of this will matter if we are still only “debating” critical pieces of legislation that can boost digital transformation in our society. This is not to say we don’t know what the digital policy is. The agenda is already set. Now it’s just to execute and deliver on its promise.
Our young innovators should not have to outsource various skills and resources to realize their dreams, nor should they have to leave their country to do so. Our start-ups and entrepreneurs can further the progress of technology since their work is defined by constant innovation and meticulous planning. But they will need a conducive tech ecosystem to facilitate this. At AMCHAM T&T we are committed to making this a reality.
Our recent Tech Hub Islands Summit focused on 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. 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.
We must use the approach to post COVID-19 recovery as a means to change the conversation from “brain-drain” to “brain circulation”. As global supply chains shift, we have to be agile and dynamic in our response to build the environment and enable the businesses that would allow us to create the conditions to encourage those who left our shores to return and attract the best and brightest from around the world to come to live and work in T&T. We hope the articles in this edition of our Linkage underscore that T&T has the talent and capacity to increase our impact in the global value chain. Enjoy!
It has been a tumultuous year for everyone: citizens, companies, and countries. COVID-19 defined what a pandemic crisis looks like for this generation, and it created a major humanitarian and economic crisis all over the world.
In the current context, with vaccines being administered in every country there is a light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
The question moving forward will be what is our new normal?
Still, the story from the past eighteen months has been one of adapting, embracing change and finding the ways to produce success. We learned to pivot and thereby introduced 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 the theme for AMCHAM T&T’s Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) Conference & Exhibition is “Learn, Evolve, Thrive” because not only does it shape the narrative of our experiences over this past year but it defines the story of our journey during the past 25 years of promoting HSSE Excellence and Leadership across every industry in Trinidad and Tobago.
This virtual experience is a must-attend event for all professionals, CEOs, technicians, and HR Managers throughout the entire region. The event continues to be an effective vehicle for sharing information, encouraging best practices and elevating national awareness. We encourage our membership to uphold the highest standards in these areas as we believe that the benefits positively impact the organisation as well as the wider national community.
This year's conference will feature over 40 local and international speakers and subject matter experts. Targeted at those companies and persons that drive excellence in HSSE, Process Safety, Operations, Leadership, Human and Organisational Performance, and Executive Leadership engagement in these topics. This conference can be applied as PDUs or CEUS for professional certification programmes such as IOSH, CSP (US); CRSP (Canadian); Process Safety Certifications etc.
Participants can also gain best practices, relevant, cutting-edge information and the tools to create and maintain robustness within your organisation.
Even as disruptive FinTech’s flourish, the more established banks continue to play a significant role in our various economies. Traditional banking, as an industry, underpins the stability and confidence in most of our economies and this is likely to hold. Additionally, most FinTech’s do in fact need a bank to facilitate some aspect of their operations. So, banks will be around for a long while, but they will need to adjust to the changing tide of technology.
As an industry, we are constantly innovating and evolving to meet the needs of our customers. Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, Republic Bank adjusted its operations by emphasising all of our existing contactless methods of banking as well as fast-tracking the launch of new ones. In March 2021, our EndCash launch introduced the first mobile digital wallet to the market, facilitating QR code-based contactless payments between individuals, from individuals to businesses and between businesses. We upgraded our online banking system and mobile app in July 2021, and while there were some serious hiccups, we have learnt several lessons from this experience and will use these to continue to improve our user experience delivery. Our aim is to build a portfolio of digital solutions to facilitate our customers’ daily banking needs. As key industry players we must cultivate a mindset of excellence, agility and flexibility to drive the continuous improvement of our offerings and adapt to the ever-changing demands of our customers.
If we look back in history, the Industrial Revolution shook up the world by altering businesses, economies, and society at large. This paradigm shift had a significant impact on the globe, and today it is the Digital Revolution that is changing the way we live and conduct business.
As a society, we must ensure that we capitalise on this momentum and use the revolution as a catalyst for economic growth and diversification, a driver of competitiveness and innovation and an enabler of long-term development. We must also balance our quest for progress against the need to ensure that those with less access to technology are not left behind.
While an interconnected global market is allowing modern technologies to appear in some of the world's most rural and remote locations, there is still a digital divide in many developing countries where work needs to be done to ensure that inclusion and equity is achieved. As a society, we must invest in the necessary resources to identify current market gaps and the specific expertise required to help close them. If we continue to develop and improve technologies, society will be able to address the wide range of challenges that we face, provided that these technologies are made available to everyone.
Of course, locally we have felt the economic impact of the Digital Revolution and while we have made significant advancements in building out a digital ecosystem, we still have a lot of work to do.
Consider that internet penetration in Trinidad and Tobago stood at 77% in January 2020; this compared to a global figure of 59% and a Caribbean figure of 60% according to DataReportal.com. This shows us in a relatively good light, but if we consider the fact that only 20% of persons 15 years and over make online purchases or pay bills online, it clues us in to a gap. If a similar comparison is made for say, Estonia: internet penetration is 98% and online purchases register at 75%. Using Singapore: internet penetration is 88% and online purchases are at 57%.
Both Estonia and Singapore are known to be places far along the digital transformation scale, so it is not surprising that the online purchase and bill payment numbers are higher than in Trinidad and Tobago. These places have achieved a level of digital transformation that has made them reference points, but such change did not happen by accident. It is typically a deliberate, planned result, based on a vision and managed with purpose. As Senator the Honourable Allyson West, then 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.”
By July 2021, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley had elevated Digital Transformation to full ministry status, further signalling the Government’s digital intentions. These are good signs, but must be followed by consistent and continuous action, and if the impact of that action is to be transformative and lasting, we must accelerate the productive and innovative use of ICT and create and execute on a framework for e-government, e-business, e-commerce and e-services.
“What gets measured gets done” is an old adage that I use, and the development of a scorecard with defined metrics would be a great tool to create transparency and to help measure our progress. Measures like the Ease of Doing Business Index and the UN’s E-Government Development Index (EGDI) are good starting points in providing directional indications of progress. For example, in 2014, Trinidad and Tobago ranked 91 of 193 in the EGDI and in 2020 moved up to 81st.
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst for us to understand the benefits of a more digitally driven economy. What we now need is for it to provide the impetus to stop us from procrastinating. We need to push ourselves to be proactive and creative. Over the last eighteen months, we’ve made some small steps in government, industry and small businesses, and even in those minor shifts we have seen the path for better things ahead. This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg and there is still much more to be done.
Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, Vice President of Corporate Operations and Transformation at Atlantic LNG was appointed the new President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) at the organisation’s 28th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Business Forum on June 22nd, 2021.
She replaced outgoing President, Patricia Ghany, who served a three-year term from 2018 – 2021, to become the third woman to hold the position of President in the organisation’s 28-year history.
With over 25 years of experience in the Oil and Gas industry, Toni has held senior leadership responsibilities within the fields of Engineering, Business Development, Project Development and Management, Corporate Communications, Planning and Information Technology.
She began her journey with AMCHAM T&T thirteen years ago, having served as a Director on the Board from 2008-2015 and then rejoining in 2019 when work commitments permitted. Speaking on her appointment, Toni says she is extremely pleased to be working with a very dynamic and diverse Board, with whom she hopes to accomplish many great things. “AMCHAM T&T is a very unique chamber that I believe adds value especially through the strong networks it builds among its members, regional American Chambers of Commerce, the US Embassy and government,” she said. “To be placed in a position to build on this solid foundation at a pivotal time for our country presents great opportunities for me to make meaningful contributions.”
Also, at the 28th Annual General Meeting (AGM), the following business professionals were elected to serve on the Board of Directors for the term 2021 – 2023:
Chargé d’Affaires, Shante Moore – U.S. Embassy Trinidad & Tobago Ex- Officio position
Nirad Tewarie CEO AMCHAM T&T Ex-Officio position
AMCHAM T&T’s 28th Annual General Meeting was sponsored by Platinum Sponsor: E-zone Logistics; Gold Sponsor: Nu-Iron Trinidad and Tobago and Silver Sponsors: Pan American Life Insurance Group; EOG Resources and Atlantic LNG.
With COVID-19 having taken the lives of more than 1,000 people in Trinidad and Tobago and of over 4 million people around the world, vaccines are proving to be indispensable to curb the spread of the virus and ensure that economies around the world have a fighting chance to recover from the pandemic.
Considering these sobering statistics, AMCHAM T&T launched a mass vaccination site at NAPA, the National Academy for the Performing Arts in Port-of-Spain, on July 19th, 2021, together with our partner, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce, and in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI).
The initiative is part of the business community's commitment to support the Ministry of Health’s vaccination drive. It is vital for our membership to restart the economy safely as soon as possible. Our NAPA vaccination site will be in operation for 60 days to provide much-needed access to the COVID-19 vaccine to members of the business community and the wider society.
Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, AMCHAM T&T President, expressed her gratitude to see corporate Trinidad and Tobago step up to play its part in fighting this pandemic, saying: “An operation such as this is a massive undertaking, and it cannot be done by one single person or organisation. 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 which demonstrate the continued collaboration between the private sector and the government as we work together to protect our citizens and defeat COVID-19.”
Sirju-Ramnarine thanked the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and the TTCSI for the camaraderie and collaboration in operationalising this mass vaccination site, and the Ministry of Health for supplying and administering the vaccines and for their guidance in establishing this site. She also acknowledged other business organisations that had previously run mass vaccination sites in other parts of the island, who willingly shared their learnings and experience, which helped greatly in setting up the site in the capital.
AMCHAM T&T encourages all citizens to get vaccinated. “To those who are yet to be vaccinated and who may be hesitant,” Sirju-Ramnarine said, “I urge you to utilise the resources available on the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation websites, or to 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.”
The private sector will be covering all costs related to operationalisation, site management, administration of more than 200 staff/volunteers, meals/refreshments, requisite equipment which includes refrigerators, tents, generators, sanitization stations, garbage disposal, etc.
Members of the public who are interested in volunteering at the vaccination site are asked to contact Ms Kavita Chankar at mobile: 776-1741 or email at email@example.com.
Anyone interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine can register for an appointment at vaccinate.org.tt.
Walk-ins are also accommodated daily.
Vaccination site will be opened every Wednesday to Sunday from 9 am-6 pm
by Fanta Punch
As Trinidad & Tobago’s economy adjusts to the changing times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation in entrepreneurship has taken a different meaning as individuals and companies alike seek to find new ways to not only survive but thrive. The use of technology has now become an integral part of business and everyday life, especially in industries such as healthcare, banking, entertainment, IT, travel and education and is a critical success factor for companies seeking to increase their competitive advantage.
Intellectual property is a key contributor to the growth and development of technology and can provide excellent opportunities for further commercialisation and brand expansion.
One such example can be found in the local mobile phone industry which mushroomed during the pandemic with the launch of a number of mobile apps for supermarket shopping, food delivery, pharmacies, doctor’s visits, marketing, client communication and product sales. As far back as 2013, mobile penetration rates in this country have been very high, and so increased use of this technology in driving today’s markets is important.
As technology drives the phenomenon, IP and the complexity surrounding IP rights become increasingly relevant. Opportunities now exist for innovation and commercialisation but though they require being cognizant of some of legal, commercial, and contractual issues that arise when using IP in relation to technology.
Commercialisation of intellectual property in an increasingly technologically advanced space, requires understanding of several factors such as exploitation of co-existing intellectual property rights, co-ownership, licensing, assignment and financing, market penetration, IP financing and valuation, due diligence and meeting international standards.
The ability to negotiate transactions and contracts on licensing, assignment, franchising issues or the sale of business for its intellectual property value are required to be well placed to exploit the commercial potential intellectual property can provide.
In the use of technology within the digital environment, copyright is one of the most important forms of legal protection of intellectual property, though other rights such as trade marks, patents, industrial design are also valuable. While copyright is the main form of protection, it is also possible that proprietary software can be protected as a trade secret and is actively used alongside copyright. Software companies for example at times decide to keep certain rights as a trade secret through confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements. This article will look primarily at copyright issues.
Copyright law exists to protect original literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works by the sole fact of their creation regardless of form of expression but not ideas, procedures, methods of operation. It protects commercially important business assets such as computer software, for example technology behind screen displays on mobile applications, databases, information and online content.
It arises automatically as soon as it is created in a tangible form and becomes a protected right. Copyright law essentially affords a copyright owner the right to prevent against unlawful copying. The exploitation of its commercial value in terms of assignment of rights or royalties from licensing makes it a very valuable intellectual property right.
Traditionally, companies involved in printing, publishing, audiovisual creations, fashion, communication and broadcasting depended on copyright and related rights. Today digital content driven industries, online or mobile, for example the entertainment industry, now rely on effective copyright protection.
With the advancement of technology in business, copyright has become a very complex and complicated area of intellectual property. Copyright owners face serious challenges in the fight against copyright infringement and piracy, including online.
Unauthorised use of copyright can dilute or damage brands, negatively affect pricing and profitability as well as contribute to illegal activity such as money laundering and illicit trade.
While local copyright law makes provision for copyright infringement both civil and criminal, it is not that easy to pursue illegal activity, for example, online. It is sometimes worth registering other intellectual property rights which co-exist with copyright where permitted to garner as wide protection as possible.
Demonstrating proof of ownership of copyright material is particularly relevant, even in litigious matters. As a right that is subject to registration, proving sufficient evidence of creation in copyrighted work can be a difficult and complicated exercise. While there are other jurisdictions that allow for a voluntary registration system, in more recent times, the use of international online digital services such as Wipo Proof launched by the World Intellectual Property Office can be supportive. Wipo Proof is an online service that creates a secure digital file of a creation of an intellectual property asset at the time of creation. This can act as evidence of the creation of copyright material, while existing copyright laws remain in place.
In addition to wading through the issues that relate to technical development, prohibitive costs and resources associated with copyright, leveraging one’s copyright can be challenging whether as a new entrant or an established player.
Digitalisation has made it more difficult for copyright owners to take steps against the unauthorised use of copyrighted digital material that is easily accessible via the Internet. But notwithstanding some of the legal and practical challenges faced by operators in the digital environment, use of this lucrative and dynamically changing intellectual property right remains a definitive role for business going forward for revenue generation and commercialisation.
The information provided in this article does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. All information is provided for general information purposes only. Specific advice should be sought from your Attorney-at-Law on any issues raised herein, as necessary.
Fanta Punch is an Attorney-At-Law and Partner at M. Hamel-Smith & Co.
By Jeanelle Pran
We may have thought that by now, COVID-19 and having to remain in quarantine would be a thing of the past. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Like many countries around the world, Trinidad and Tobago has experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases over the past few months. This led the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (the ‘GORTT’) to adopt enhanced measures to curb its spread, some of which included the closure of all businesses and the implementation of a State of Emergency. Recent weeks have seen a minor relaxation of these measures, with food establishments being allowed to provide delivery, take-out and curb-side services and borders re-opening after more than a year of being closed. It is expected that, as more of the population becomes vaccinated, more restrictions will be relaxed. Nevertheless, despite the increased vaccination drives, quarantining will be a part of our everyday lives for the foreseeable future.
(a) Persons have contracted the COVID-19 virus;
(b) Persons have been exposed to someone who may have COVID-19; and/or
(c) Persons intend to travel abroad or return home from travelling abroad.
In anticipation of the re-opening of the borders, the GORTT enacted the Quarantine (Amendment) Act 2021 (the ‘Amendment Act’) which increases the fines for the commission of certain offences under the Quarantine Act Chap. 28:05 (the ‘Quarantine Act’). As a result of this, quarantining brings with it, not only high costs (for instance where persons have to quarantine in private facilities) but high fines, for failing to quarantine in accordance with the law.
This article will explore the changes made by the Amendment Act to the Quarantine Act.
The Amendment Act was introduced in the Senate on 5th July 2021 and was assented to on 17th July 2021. It does not require proclamation by the President and is therefore in full force and effect. The Amendment Act amends the Quarantine Act in order to provide for stricter penalties against individuals who attempt to defy the quarantine system. The following are the ways in which the Amendment Act amends the Quarantine Act:
(i) Section 4 of the Quarantine Act is amended by inserting a new subsection (4). This subsection states that Regulations may provide that any contravention thereof shall constitute an offence punishable on summary conviction to a fine of $250,000.00 and to imprisonment for 6 months.
(ii) Section 7(1) and 7(2) of the Quarantine Act is amended by increasing the fines for certain offences from $6,000.00 and 6 months imprisonment to $350,000.00 and 1 year imprisonment. The offences for which these increased penalties apply, are set out below:
(a) Refusing to answer or knowingly giving an untrue answer to any inquiry made under the authority of the Quarantine Act reasonably required by an officer or other person acting under the authority of the Quarantine Act.
(b) Knowingly furnishing to any such officer or other person any information which is false.
(c) Refusing or wilfully omitting to do any act which is required to be done by the Quarantine Act.
(d) Refusing or wilfully omitting to carry out any lawful order, instruction or condition made, given or imposed by any officer or other person acting under the authority of the Quarantine Act.
(e) Assaulting, resisting, wilfully obstructing or intimidating any officer or other person acting under the authority of the Quarantine Act.
(f) Offering or giving a bribe to any officer or person in connection with their powers or duties under the Quarantine Act.
(g) Being an officer or person with duties under the Quarantine Act, demanding, soliciting or taking a bribe in connection with the powers or duties under the Quarantine Act or otherwise obstructing the execution of the Quarantine Act.
(h) Committing any other offence in violation of the Quarantine Act.
The severity of these fines show that the GORTT is taking an extremely strict approach to violations of the quarantine system in order to safeguard the interest of citizens. By increasing the penalties under the Quarantine Act, it is hoped and anticipated that persons would act in accordance with the law. Notably, the offences are broadly drafted and are likely to capture persons, who generally obstruct the law as it relates to quarantining, and not just those to who fail to quarantine in accordance with any prescribed Quarantine Order. For instance, where a citizen seeks re-entry into the country and furnishes false information as to their vaccination status or negative PCR testing, they could be liable for giving an untrue answer to an inquiry made under the authority of the Quarantine Act and/or for knowingly furnishing information which is false.
Further, a person who refuses to adhere to a Quarantine Order or to the conditions of quarantine could be liable for refusing or wilfully omitting to do any act which is required to be done by the Quarantine Act. That said, each case will turn on its facts and it will be important to carefully examine the Quarantine Act and the restrictions and obligations it imposes.
Ultimately, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and persons entering the country should familiarise themselves with the offences under the Quarantine Act, in order to avoid a potential infringement.
The information provided in this article does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. All information is provided for general information purposes only. Specific advice should be sought from your Attorney-at-Law on any issues raised herein, if thought necessary.
Jeanelle Pran is an Associate Attorney-at-Law at M. Hamel-Smith & Co.
By the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago
The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has highlighted two important issues amongst others:
a) the urgency for ubiquitous access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to bridge the global digital divide and
b) their effective use.
So important are ICTs to life on planet earth in the twenty-first century, it is recognised that they are a key platform for realising the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were adopted by the UN in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
Twinned with access to technologies must be their effective use if they are to spur personal, national and global development.
For this reason, initiatives to bridge the digital divide by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) are accompanied by programmes aimed at the effective use of ICTs, which includes ICT education, protecting children online and responsible use of ICTs.
The importance ICTs and their effective use were solidly underscored when COVID-19 hit this planet in 2019.
From December 31st, 2019, the date on which the World Health Organization’s (WHO) observed a media statement on the website of the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission about cases of ‘viral pneumonia’, information about COVID-19 began crisscrossing the earth via ICTs.
When the reality of a global pandemic was officially announced by the WTO on March 11th, 2020, information from reliable as well as malicious or conspiracy theory related sources about the virus, was already in circulation via ICT’s.
According to an April 27, 2021, WHO article published on its website titled “Fighting misinformation in the time of COVID-19, one click at a time,” recent research suggests in the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6,000 people around the globe were hospitalised because of coronavirus misinformation. During this period, researchers say at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19.
The article also noted that the BBC launched a campaign “to raise the public’s awareness of the volume of misinformation around COVID-19 and encourage people to double-check information, therefore limiting the damage and spread of false information.
While such a campaign to counter misinformation disseminated would have been valuable to the connected, the unconnected (those in the digital divide) may not have fully benefitted from the gesture. Myths such as placing half an onion in the corner of a room to catch the COVID-19 germs could spell danger for many.
The connected, who received and sought out information from reliable sources, learnt how to protect themselves and their families.
This situation and other challenges that reared their heads when the virus hit highlight the critical and urgent need for governments to pursue initiatives to get their populations connected and educate persons in the effective use of ICTs.
Among the other challenges faced at the time of the virus outbreak was the need for persons to work remotely and students to attend online classes. This situation continues to exist in various parts of the world as lockdown measures are instituted because of outbreaks associated with second, third and fourth waves of the virus.
A news release issued by United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on August 26th, 2020, states “at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren – 463 million children globally – were unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 shuttered their schools”.
Shortly after COVID-19 restrictions were implemented in Trinidad and Tobago, the national community became aware that over 63,000 students were without devices. In response, several corporate entities stepped in to assist.
The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) also assisted by acquiring 10,000 ICT devices. Alongside this initiative, TATT, in collaboration with CybersafeTT and the National Library and Information System, developed an IT skills training programme aimed at assisting students and parents to use those devices effectively and responsibly.
The core components of the IT skills training programme are two videos, one targeting students and the other parents and guardians. These videos are currently available on TATT’s YouTube channel and can be accessed from TATT’s website. TATT plans to hold training sessions with as many students of primary and secondary schools as possible, once COVID-19 restrictions are sufficiently lifted.
As countries institute measures to close the digital gap, more children will be online for classes, communicating with friends and family and playing games – a scenario that is a haven for online predators.
Since 2008, TATT had been involved in educating parents and children about online protection and responsible use of ICTs. Thus, recognising that more children will be online due to COVID-19 restrictions, TATT upped the ante and included in the IT Skills Training Programme, a live discussion on national television titled Child Online Protection. A recording of this discussion is also available via TATT’s website.
The provision of devices, training and online protection initiatives will contribute to narrowing the ICT access and knowledge gaps in Trinidad and Tobago, which TATT is seeking to measure through a digital inclusion survey being undertaken in the current financial year. In this survey, data will be collected to assess factors necessary for the efficient use of ICTs such as skill, motivation and trust. This initiative is one of many stemming from TATT’s Universal Service Framework for Telecommunications Services in Trinidad and Tobago and The Telecommunications (Universal Service) Regulations.
Digital literacy is increasingly becoming a matter of concern, and this led TATT to develop the IT Skills training programme. Interactions with young people at various fora have led TATT to discover that even some young persons who are fortunate enough to own an ICT device or have access to one, are still unable to effectively use them for their studies or other developmental pursuits.
While they are adept at cruising through social media platforms, playing games and viewing movies, some are unable to perform fundamental tasks such as conducting research for academic purposes and creating documents in programmes such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
Further, young persons who are not information technology students may not have developed basic functional IT skills which in today’s world are required in the workplace for blue and white-collar workers.
Two strategic initiatives embedded in TATT’s current strategic plan are:
1) Sustainability of Industry to develop the necessary skills in secondary students that will allow them to utilise ICTs to develop their SBA’s and laboratory skills as they prepare for their CXC and CSEC exams.
2) Universal Service, Connectivity and Digital Inclusion. These are aimed at strengthening ICT skills in the country’s youth and will involve delivering IT training to at-risk youth in Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with institutions that cater for the educational needs of these young people.
TATT is committed to continuing the pursuit of these and other related initiatives to close the digital divide and prepare our people to effectively use ICTs Now and Beyond.
By Rishika Ramkay
Successful digital transformation offers competitive economic advantages amidst dynamic environmental changes. It is a strategic process involving the implementation and adoption of disruptive technologies to achieve increased productivity, efficiency and optimised value within an organisation. Yet, 70% of digital transformation initiatives fail (Deloitte 2020). The Boston Consulting Group attributes these failures to inadequacies in budgeting, inabilities to achieve deadlines and deliverables, and inabilities to deliver full system functionalities. The overarching concern echoes a cry for leadership and expertise to aid in the navigation of this new and exciting terrain, and ultimately arrive at your digital transformation destination successfully.
At its core, digital transformation requires some fundamental changes to the current organisational structures, processes, policies, technologies and work cultures. Particularly, in the public sector, legacy systems and the corresponding infrastructure, along with the organisational structures for process delivery, will most likely require some revisions to improve the overall workflows. It is important to develop and communicate a shared vision when embarking on a digital transformation journey.
Broadcasting an organisation’s vision across all its tiers, defining clear objectives and openly discussing the expected outcomes, including addressing stakeholder concerns, will demystify the transition to digital. This approach will motivate your team by creating a clear understanding of their roles during and after the transformation process and the benefits supporting digital adoption. The importance of buy-in for both internal and external stakeholders plays a critical role in the success rate of any digital transformation venture.
Approaching an external consultant to partner with this process can assist in dissolving hesitancies and addressing cognitive blocks. This creates a clear line of communication that provides a solid foundation for system design, implementation and change management. External consultants can add value to your vision by implementing industry best practices and the necessary expertise to help realise your goals. With the added layers of transparency and objectivity, external consultants can boost your transition to digital adoption into hyperdrive because they can provide the necessary resources, expertise and creativity with assured focus and commitment to your end goal.
While an external consultant can advise your organisation effectively, it is important to recognise what works best for your organisation based on its needs and digital maturity level. Some private-sector organisations may be fully prepared to migrate all current data to the cloud and transition to remote operations. The same approach will not apply to government operations with more stringent data protection policies. This best-fit approach to digital transformation is critical for a successful transition to digital technologies, because it considers the organisation's unique position, goals, and needs.
Leaders can mistakenly perceive digital transformation as solely a technology venture. Technology, however, represents just one of the five critical elements to digital transformation. Effective leadership combines a suite of elements, including data, technology, service, people and governance, to achieve effective implementation and user adoption. In particular, digitally mature organisations recognise the importance of people-centred leadership and continuous change management to ensure organisations remain flexible and open to change as technologies evolve.
The traditional nature of leadership, more commonly tied to autocratic methodologies, has proven futile in channelling visionary adoption of new and innovative technologies. A new era of leadership demands increased innovation, collaboration and communication to drive motivation and mobilise resources towards achieving a common goal. This form of leadership assumes a holistic approach to driving change across organisational tiers and departments. The transformational leader is adaptive to changes and demands in a rapidly evolving climate and can inspire teams to become more susceptible to change. In this regard, effective leadership and change management rely on people management and emotional intelligence to guide teams from uncertainty to excitement about your digital transformation journey.
External drivers such as COVID-19 have propelled the rate at which organisations have adopted digital technologies. Inevitably, organisations will either embrace digital transformation or dissolve into an archaic memory characterised by inefficiency. Successful digital transformation will ensure organisations remain relevant and competitive while improving their overall transparency, accountability, and efficiency. For governments, the added benefit of improved Ease of Doing Business rankings will promote foreign investment, trade and economic development across industries and sectors. Therefore, organisations must recognise the need for change, approaches to change, and the importance of effective leadership in achieving successful digital transformation.
Rishika Ramkay is the Marketing Executive, at CrimsonLogic (Trinidad and Tobago) Ltd. With a global network of IT consulting experts, and leadership headquartered in Singapore, she provides key insights on the digital transformation of government projects from across the globe. She has contributed to the successful implementation of digital government transformation projects across the Caribbean region through her role at CrimsonLogic.
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