Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Virgin Islands Information and Communications Technology: What We Need

Yesterday morning I woke up to a question in Messenger.  When I saw it I immediately responded that I would need some time to think about it.  The question was what kind of support is local and federal government not giving to the Virgin Islands Information and Communications Technology community?  It's an odd question for me to think about because I've been technically out of the IT game for the last 8 years.  I still do some IT-ish things but it's not a specific job role.  I do however keep up and I'm still very observant. Okay so let's brainstorm!


Well we've got viNGN. I consider that a win even if it's an underused resource.  It's availability has proven valuable after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  The literacy programs from viNGN are also handy. And from what I hear there's a huge amount of funds coming to help repair and expand our telecom networks.  Hopefully that comes with stringent federal oversight.  I can't anything else on this end.  I think most of our issues lie with how we approach ICT locally.


1. There's no real strategy for linking every VI Government agency under the banner of the Bureau of Information Technology.  Sure there's one in the legislation that creates the office but given the myriad of duties the office needs to perform it is underfunded.  What's more, since the office is directly under the Office of the Governor, BIT tends to end up directing most of their resources there.

The history of BIT is why the problem has ballooned.  I like to tell the anecdote of how St. Thomas ended up flooded with cars and ultimately traffic.  Way back when the bus company was privately owned and was notorious for shrinking their fleet due to maintenance issues.  As a result, public transportation was erratic and this affected people's ability to get to work and make a living.  The car dealerships swooped in to fill the void of shoddy public transportation.  By the time the VI Government implemented a public transportation system it was too late.  Now imagine BIT as the privately owned bus company and everyone with their own cars and the government offices that couldn't rely on BIT so they went and got their own.

The few agencies that have their own IT staff loves that they have qualified people ready to assist their agency and their agency alone.  The agencies today that don't have IT staff have to put in a request with BIT and wait in the queue for services.

2. I don't know if there is a natural disaster emergency plan for the US Virgin Islands but I can guess if it does exist it's probably outdated and doesn't address ICT needs.  In the aftermath of Irma and Maria, we were lucky enough that WSTA was able to stay on the air but what would have happened if we lost them?  During the recovery I heard a lot of top officials claiming you can't plan for 2 Category 5 hurricanes.  To that I say bullshit.  You can ALWAYS plan for the worse case scenario.  We lost power (expected), landlines, cell service, pretty much EVERYTHING and the only thing we had in terms of communication is people delivering information BY HAND to the only working radio station.

3. While there are some education opportunities related to ICT and use of computers, there aren't a lot of them and VI Gov. employees aren't really encouraged to attend these trainings and seminars. Way back I used to be part of a Train The Trainer program when tech savvy individuals from different departments would learn advanced productivity software and bring the knowledge and training materials back to their home agencies.  They seemed to really have trouble recruiting trainers and the trainers in turn had trouble getting their fellow employees to attend a training session.  This problem still exists today.  Even for a time when I was formerly working in IT I tried organizing simple training sessions.  They were so poorly attended after a while I stopped having them.

That's all I have for now but if anything else springs to mind, I'll be sure to add it to the list.  As usual, if you have any feedback for me be sure to leave a comment.

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