Part 1: Government e-Services – More than just ICTs
Launched in 2007, ttconnect is the name given to the multi-channel government service delivery structure of the Trinidad and Tobago government which has as its motto, “Government at your Service”. At its inception, ttconnect was intended to be the “common counter” initiative of the Government – the single face of Government to the citizen. The initiative was developed with a number of objectives including:
- To deliver services to the citizens in an efficient, transparent and accountable manner;
- To facilitate electronic transactions in the Government of Trinidad and Tobago; and
- To avoid fragmentation or duplication of government services as they become available electronically and to build the co-operative “back office” arrangements that are necessary to provide “Connected Government”, and present a “One Government” service to citizens.
The ttconnect channels include:
- ttconnect online – (www.ttconnect.gov.tt ) reputedly gives on-line access to information on over four hundred (400) Government services and is the official website of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
- ttconnect self-serve – five (5) Self-Serve Kiosks, similar to ATM machines, inclusive of an application drop box
- ttconnect Express – A Bus service which travels to rural areas retails offerings from different Ministries
- ttconnect service centres – physical centres where citizens access over-the-counter service and in-person attention
- ttconnect Mobile – the mobile rendered version of the ttconnect online portal
- ttconnect hotline was also launched through which the public was provided with a single number – (800) TTCN(8826)While ttconnect has the potential to revolutionize the way in which Government services and information are delivered to all of Trinidad and Tobago, a deeper analysis of the initiative which has been in operation now for
some 13 years reveals some of the key issues and challenges which militate against the initiative attaining its full potential.
Need for “True” e-Services
The term “e-Services” is generally used to describe the provision of services via the Internet. Indeed the term Government e-Services usually conjures up the image of fast, on-line processing of submitted requests, wherein the back-end service processing is automated and seamlessly routes the required information across Ministries or Government Agencies as needed, to give the user a semi-immediate and transparent experience.
Such Service initiatives are normally touted to enable the separation of the citizen-user from the poor customer service or bureaucratic manual procedures that have been traditionally associated with Government operations. Finally, many government e-services, though not considered commercial services, do contain a payment component.
Using this standard, the vast majority of the Services which are offered via ttconnect do not qualify as full e- services. This is because there is:
- No common backend databases or datasets [e.g. population registry, or land registry] which citizen requests are queried against
- No Automated back-end processing of requests [in many cases the on-line generated requests are entered into the traditional manual queue after submission. This is known as ‘e-pretend’ services]
- Inter-Ministry collaboration and request routing at the data and services level does not exist
- Work-flows are not optimized or configured specifically for the on-line / internet channelIt should be noted that there is a related system managed by the Ministry of Trade [called TTBizLink], which leverages the ttconnect ID for authentication. Within this system [which can be accessed via ttconnect], some services do qualify as e- services as per the definition / context above.Based on the information available it would seem that true end–to-end e-services, where the citizen can go all the way through the process and receive a [real-time] e-notification of approval or denial of a benefit, based on set criteria are very limited. In many cases the citizen must still follow up by visiting the respective Ministry with regard to the Government benefit which was applied for on-line or on the ttconnect Express Bus. This is a key area in which ttconnect is underperforming its potential.
Need for Improved Payment Arrangements
Even though the technical ability to send and receive payments on-line has been implemented in recent years, ttconnect is constrained regarding the new services that it can on-board due to inadequate legislation and institutional arrangements, which renders ttconnect unable to receive monies on behalf of Government Ministries and agencies as a default matter.
Many popularly demanded services, for example payment (beyond filing) of taxes, cannot be currently facilitated through the ttconnect infrastructure. This is likely a key contributor to the reported decline in demand for the Government services offered through ttconnect’s channels over time (the uptick in enquiries during the recent months of the pandemic notwithstanding).
While the ttconnect Portal (www.ttconnect.gov.tt) is reputed to have information on over four hundred (400) different Government services, only about 46 services are available through the ttconnect Service Centres and Express.
ttconnect can only offer services based on collaborative MOUs which it signs with the Ministries from which the Service originates. However there is no mandate for collaboration.
Unwillingness on the part of certain Ministries / Agencies to leverage the ttconnect multiple channel infrastructure continues to undermine the effectiveness of this venture – which was intended to be the single face of Government to the citizen.
Further, due to its status as a State Enterprise, the CEO / Board of iGovTT has no compelling authority over Ministries to ensure that they put the relevant measures to support this “one government” approach to the delivery of citizen services.
Lessons to be Learnt
ttconnect has been one of Government’s umbrella initiatives for facilitating citizen access to public services in a way that is significantly more convenient than what has traditionally obtained. The successes and limitations of this venture should be well studied as the new Government signals its intention to push once again a national digital transformation agenda.
About this Series
This is Part 1 of a five-part series in which we investigate the national e-services infrastructure of Trinidad and Tobago, specifically ttconnect, to draw out the pros and cons, successes, and areas for greater attention.
Future editions in the series will dive deeper into the analysis, and draw out conclusions and recommendations relevant for any emerging economy-state seeking to build-out a national /citizen e-services framework.
Links to the other articles in the Series can be found as follows:
Part 2 – Fragmented ICT Oversight
About the Author
Atiba Phillips is a seasoned ICT for Development practitioner with over 20 years’ experience. He has led national ICT efforts and advised Governments, IDAs Regional bodies on relating to technology and development. More of his work can be found at http://ict.co.tt/perspectives/. He can be contacted at email@example.com ; http://ict.co.tt
Read Full Article Here: Part 1: Government e-Services – More than just ICTs