Local businesspersons and government officials were invited to view a live broadcast, from the Pelican Bay Resort, of the official launch of the e-government program which took place in New Providence yesterday.
The e-government program aims to make it possible for customers to pay for services such as licences, fees and fines; make contact with government to, for instance, lodge complaints or give compliments and access information such as requirements for obtaining licences and certificates and information about events etcetera, all online.
Four services are now available as of yesterday; renewal of driver's licenses; Real Property Tax payments; service-wide customer service and vendor enquiry.
The e-government system can be accessed at www.bahamas.gov.bs or govnet.bs.
Yesterday, during the launch, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham touted the benefits of the system, noting that it will make conducting simple transactions and doing business easier.
Pointing out that technology is driving business and service delivery in the world today, Ingraham said the government believes that investing in the use of technology to deliver public services will help The Bahamas.
"Our vision is that the Government's substantial progress in implementation of e-government will serve as a catalyst to drive a new wave of the use of technology in all facets of the Bahamian economy," he said.
Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce President K. Peter Turnquest, who was present at the local broadcast of the launch, said local businesses are looking forward to the increased use of technology to improve the efficiency of services provided by the various agencies.
"We anticipate that over the long term these advances will help to reduce the overall cost of the public service and will thus have a carryover effect on the business community in terms of reduced cost of operations and interaction with Government. We also look forward to the continued development of the suite of products to be offered online, particularly transactions with actions with the various Registries and with the lodgment of transaction in land,"?he said.
Ingraham said the customer service component was launched because improved responsiveness to the public is critical to building a more effective public service.
The vendor enquiry service will be particularly useful to businesses and independent entrepreneurs who provide goods and services to the government, he said.
Each approved vendor will be provided with a vendor identification number and, using that ID will help them be able to enter a system in the Treasury which will inform him/her of payments disbursed to their business and whether it is in the mail, awaiting collection at the Treasury, etcetera.
This will eliminate the constant need for vendors to check up on payments with individual ministries and departments, he noted.
Within the next few weeks, two additional services will be added to the platform - the application for a business licence and the payment of business licence taxes.
"When Parliament reconvenes in October, this year, we will introduce amendments to the Road Traffic Act relating to fixed penalties to make such penalties more reasonable and to bring them in line with international standards. Once this is done, we will bring fixed penalty payments online by year's end. This will greatly relieve the pressure on our traffic courts and provide a convenient means for the payment of road traffic penalties," Ingraham shared.
Over the next several years, scores of new services will be offered to the public, he continued.
In this particular fiscal year, the government hopes to offer applications for new work permits as well as renewals; payment of customs duties; payment of police character certificates; payment of passport applications; and payment of post office box rentals.
"I invite you, members of the public, to participate in determining the direction we take with this initiative in the months and years ahead. I invite you to provide feedback on how we can improve this program, what new services we should prioritize; and how we can work together as a country to ensure that this critical investment of $10.2 million advances and benefits our people and our nation,"?Ingraham said.
"We are deepening and broadening the Government's efforts to create more of a service culture aided by cutting-edge technology and best practices in the public service. And we are improving the means by which services will be delivered to businesses and the general public."