Rob Barton | December 4, 2013

Journey to a networked nation

An article in today’s Cayman Compass, The private cost of public spending, reminded me of a pitch we made earlier this year to senior government officials: Hon Franz Manderson, Dax Basdeo, and Samuel Rose.

Like the article, our pitch expressed concerns over government’s lack of vision and inefficient delivery of services, in particular, online services. Accordingly, it outlined a number of solutions based on a practical delivery framework.

Here are some of the key themes I think are worth sharing about our proposal:

Journey to a networked nation

We proposed a re-imagined government online service which should do two things; first, provide access to online transactional services such as vehicle licensing, payment of fines, and payment of duties; second, to publish government information for citizens in one place on the web.

We hypothesised the acid test would be whether these services could empower, and make life simpler for the Cayman population and at the same time deliver a vastly increased range, usage and quality of online transactions that deliver the greatest impact. Less hassle for citizens and businesses; greater efficiency for government.

We also hypothesised about the opportunity to position the Cayman Islands as a global leader in the field of technology and innovation. With the right impetus from government, local business could make the channel shift more easily, and the inter-relationship between government and the Department of Commerce & Investment would provide the long-term strategy to benefit from the accelerated growth in global foreign investment.

A service culture

More than merely a monitised channel for government, we proposed that with the reinvention of the internet and the behavior of users in the last few years – most notably the growth of mobile and the build out of Cayman’s data infrastructure courtesy of the local Regulator and operators LIME and Digicel – digital services are now more agile, open and cheaper.

To take advantage of these changes, we argued government needs to move to a ‘service culture’ putting the needs of citizens ahead of those of departments. This increase in focus on end users should include opening up government transactions so they can be easily delivered by commercial organisations, and putting information wherever people are on the web by syndicating content.

Making it happen

Our pitch concluded with a summary of short, coherent recommendations:

  1. Develop a single government front end web presence for all departments’ transactional online services to citizens and businesses, with the teeth to mandate cross government solutions, set standards and force departments to improve citizens’ experience of key transactions.
  2. Make this single government front end a wholesaler as well as the retail shop front for government services & content by mandating the development and opening up of Application Program Interfaces (APls) to third parties.
  3. Change the model of government online publishing, by putting a new central team at cabinet level, although non political, in absolute control of the overall user experience across all digital channels, commissioning all government online information from other departments.
  4. Appoint a new CEO for Digital at cabinet level, although non political, with absolute authority over the user experience across all government online services (websites and APls) and the power to direct all government online spending. Preferably a candidate with strong digital credentials.

Top of the agenda

Clearly these recommendations have radical implications for government’s entire web presence and how government internet services could be transformed over the next few years.

It’s a fascinating subject and one we hope government, and the citizens of the Cayman Islands, will put at the top of their agenda.

Rob Barton

Head of Interactive + Principal