Minister Bacchus’ Leads Technical Mission on Strategic Visit to India

On August 3-11, 2023, a delegation of officials from the Ministry of Digital Transformation (MDT), inclusive of Senator the Honourable Hassel Bacchus, Minister of Digital Transformation who joined the delegation on August 6th, undertook a strategic visit to India with the purpose of advancing bilateral cooperation in the areas of Digital Transformation and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

The long-term goal of this exchange is to strengthen Trinidad and Tobago’s position in the global e-governance arena.

Within the last decade, India has secured its position as an international leader in the areas of Digital Identity, Digital Payments, Digital Service Transformation, Digital Public Infrastructure, and Digital Public Goods. Its significant progress in such areas has propelled India to occupy the position as the world’s 5th largest economy and has facilitated the creation of revolutionary services such as unique digital identity for all and the opening of zero-balance bank accounts. Moreover, the Government of India has signaled a willingness to share its solutions and know-how with the Global South. Additionally, there is recognition of similarity in the countries’ approaches to the development and implementation of key projects such as the National Digital Identity (e-ID). Consequently, having noted India’s significant accomplishments, the MDT has identified the Government of India as a key partner for advancing its development objectives. 

9th Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), India-Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) Conclave

The first activity the delegation participated in was the 9th Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), India-Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) Conclave held in New Delhi from August 3 to August 4. A team of three headed by Mr. Devindra Ramnarine, Digital Transformation Advisor, represented the MDT in this multisectoral event. Over the course of two days, several esteemed speakers highlighted the potential for business opportunities between India and LAC countries in industry, government, and civil society. Mr. Ramnarine represented the MDT in the panel session on IT & Electronics – Promoting Digital Partnerships through Technology, where he expressed local and regional needs which can be met by Indian suppliers.

Over the course of the next six (6) days the delegation, led by Minister Bacchus visited a series of public and private institutions in India.  

Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple

The Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple in New Delhi is the largest temple worldwide and welcomes approximately 10 million visitors yearly. The facility reflects India’s timeless cultural expression, and its prowess as a world leader in digital technologies with its rich storytelling of ancient India through robotics displays and mechanised boat rides, as well as its use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices for optimisation of its operations.  Gnanmunidas Swami, the General Manager, graciously shared the importance of focusing on inner values and cultural retention as Trinidad and Tobago continues to pursue digital transformation and also gave advice on how to accelerate digital transformation progress.

Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship

At the session with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, The Honourable Minister of State, Shri Rajeev Chandrashekar shared his fulfilling experiences in visiting remote villages in rural India to witness citizens benefiting from digital government services. He reminded the delegation of the importance of accessibility and inclusion in the pursuit of digital transformation. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) also presented an impressive catalogue of web-based and mobile-based services for sectors including health, agriculture, education, and government.

National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELET).

The National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELET), operates under the mandate of skill development in Information, Electronics, and Communication Technology (ICET) through secondary to post-graduate level programmes. At NIELET, emphasis is placed on emerging technologies such as AI, blockchain, big data, and 3D printing. The delegation seized the opportunity to form a strategic partnership with NIELET to secure world-class structured education for ICT professionals within the public sector and for members of the recently launched Developer’s Hub, in fields such as open-source software development, software quality assurance, and cybersecurity.

Hyderabad House

Minister Bacchus and his delegation were graciously invited to Hyderabad House for a courtesy call and luncheon hosted by the Minister of State for the Ministry of External Affairs, the Honourable Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi. Her Excellency reflected on India’s legislative and socio-cultural journey towards establishing revolutionary services. Moreover, she emphasised the necessity of a transparent and effective communications strategy for the successful uptake of new initiatives, and she shared her experience on the topic. Later that same afternoon, the delegation pursued further opportunities for quality assurance and security testing of locally developed solutions with the Standardisation Testing and Quality Control Directorate (STQC) of MeitY.

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY)

One of the key stakeholders with whom the delegation engaged was the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in India. Discussions were held with the teams responsible for the apps and systems of India’s Digital Public Infrastructure, IndiaStack. The TT team witnessed engaging presentations and live demonstrations of groundbreaking services such as Aadhaar, India’s National Digital Identity System, and UPI, India’s Unified Payments Interface. Shri Alkesh Kumar Sharma, Secretary of MeitY, reinforced MeitY’s commitment to extending an arm to Trinidad and Tobago in the pursuit of digital transformation. 

On the final day of this strategic visit a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was established between Trinidad and Tobago and India. The High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago to India, His Excellency Dr. Roger Gopaul, and Shri Sushil Pal, Joint Secretary of MeitY, were signatories on behalf of their respective Governments. The MoU will be the vehicle through which both nations advance their partnership by establishing the enabling infrastructure by which Trinidad and Tobago will benefit from the willingness of India to share its digital solutions and technical expertise.

Benefits to T&T

It is with renewed excitement and expectation that the Minister and the delegation returned home, having accomplished all objectives. The Technical Mission expanded the frontiers of possibility while also validating the path the MDT is taking. The similarity of our design and implementation, as well as the alignment of core tenets reinforced the MDT’s conviction to continue forging strong bonds with a nation with whom Trinidad and Tobago has held diplomatic ties since its independence. Tenets such as open source and open standard by default, avoiding vendor lock-in, privacy and security by design, knowledge transfer and capacity building, and leveraging beneficial use cases as the main driver for uptake of solutions are but some of the key principles that were proven as best practice. 

The partnership will allow the acquisition of services and solutions of the IndiaStack, and transcends beyond mere adoption of technology, into a transferal of expertise, experience, and lessons learned as Trinidad and Tobago forges towards a digital future. 

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