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Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert MP.

GEISHA KOWLESSAR-ALONZO

Data could be the new oil for this country says Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Speaking at day two of the virtual UN-T&T Big Data forum themed, “The Transformational Role of Big Data Technologies and Analytics —Economic Transformation, Imbert added that the rights of users will remain at the forefront of any policy governing Big Data.

Hence, he said Government will engage in legislative review to ensure instances for potential of abuse.

“Such as the case whereby political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was found to have misused individual electronic data for the purposes of interfering with the electoral process of various countries,” Imbert cited.

He said Government has set “an aggressive agenda” to ensure T&T does not get left behind in the digital transformation process and that the country is well positioned in the region in its adoption of technology.

Noting that T&T has the potential to harness all the potential of Big Data, the Finance Minister said this is possible due to modern telecommunications infrastructure, “state-of-the-art Tier Three” data centres, 100 per cent mobile cellular network, high mobile penetration of 142 per cent, internet penetration of 77 per cent and a highly qualified, talented pool to propel data analytics.

During the question and answer session Imbert said by the end of 2022 Government is hoping to achieve most of its objectives in its digital transformation quest including an electronic national identity for each citizen, cashless transaction throughout most of the public service and public access to data while ensuring privacy.

According to Imbert training and access to funding will be provided.

“One of the most important things is access to proper and modern technology. We have found that quite a few people in the system are not tech savvy and they now occupy senior positions within the public service so there’s a lot of training that is going to be required,” Imbert explained.

With respect to the participation of SMEs the Finance Minister said Government has established a fund to help such entities develop more fiscal discipline, adding that Government has also agreed to provide services like accounting and management which some SMEs may not be able to afford or access easily.

Additionally, Imbert said the Government intends to create its own Big Data centres rather than relying on outside investor interest and technology.

The Finance Minister also congratulations the United Nations for its success in hosting the second iteration of the Big Data Forum, noting that in 2020 the UN said this country is well-poised to be the home for a “centre of excellence” on Big Data analytics.