The T&T Government could be doing so much more with IT & “hackers”

Everywhere you look these days there are coding competitions, “code jams”, “hackathons”, “startup weekends” etc. All over the world people are getting excited by the prospect technology being used to improve our lives … These “code jams” are doing much more than just getting people excited about it, they are actually solving problems.

I was going to make this post about the fact that there was so much potential @ my former company, iGovTT, to do so much to improve how government functions, both in terms of its internally facing and citizen facing capabilities, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Instead I’ll share a video that I find very interesting … the sad part is that there is absolutely reason that we can’t be doing this, in Trinidad & Tobago, right here, right now. Other governments are realizing the awesometasticness (awesome + fantastic + ness) of coders and what they can bring to the table. Some Governments are doing something about it …


Coding a better government – Jennifer Pahlka


If you know anything about government technology, you know that this isn’t how it normally goes. Procuring software usually takes a couple of years. We had a team that worked on a project in Boston last year that took three people about two and a half months. It was a way that parents could figure out which were the right public schools for their kids. We were told afterward that if that had gone through normal channels, it would have taken at least two years and it would have cost about two million dollars. And that’s nothing. There is one project in the California court system right now that so far cost taxpayers two billion dollars, and it doesn’t work. And there are projects like this at every level of government.

There are some fantastic quotes in this presentation. The transcript can be found on TED:

My punch line – The government of Trinidad and Tobago is not serious about IT and how it can be used to help address our nations issues. That or, the people that we have in Government responsible for IT doesn’t know how to leverage properly… but they are trying, even if they’re messing it up along the way.

Videos like this, show us that there is another way. If we embrace “a different way of doing things”. Interestingly enough, my former team lead at iGovTT is a strong proponent of Open Source which seems to be a key ingredient in this effort.

So, what’s the matter coders of Trinidad and Tobago?? We’ve go the talent, we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the know-how … Do we have the passion? Do we have the will?

This is another quote from this presentation that I love:

But these apps are like little digital reminders that we’re not just consumers, and we’re not just consumers of government, putting in our taxes and getting back services. We’re more than that, we’re citizens. And we’re not going to fix government until we fix citizenship.

This nation is distracted by “issues” such as who stayed in the PM’s residence, who misused a Government credit card and a host of other insignificant and equally irrelevant concerns. We need to be building our nation, building our “world!”

It was pretty “challenging” to get things moving from the inside (the T&T Government), but have some ideas about what my next steps are going to be.

What are we collectively going to do about it? 

Interesting links:

    I just took a look at the Trinidad Guardian and noted technologist Bevil Wooding actually writes about similar thoughts this morning. you can find that article here:


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    Posted in Cloud, Mobile, National & Regional Development, Random Thoughts, Research, Social Networking

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    March 2012
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