The official in another country laughed when I presented my driver’s permit because it was a simple laminated card which could be made at any print shop. That was about 15 years ago and things have improved slightly. I thought of this when I received my vaccine card which provides evidence that I received my first COVID-19 Jab. My mind wondered even further when I considered that our celebrated first round of vaccinating 3% of our population will generate at least 80 thousand pieces of paper if the model at the Queens Park Savannah is replicated throughout the country.
A casual scrub through the Facebook page of the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation (MPADT) throws up the following statement: “Our aim is to bridge the digital divide by providing free and easy to access Wi-Fi to citizens at their convenience.” I therefore question the missed opportunity to digitize the administering of the COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccination is an opportunity to interact digitally with the at-risk cohort and the senior citizens cohort. It is an opportunity to send a message of transformation; to use technology to demonstrate that we can communicate effectively using a modern approach; to map where those 40,000 jabs reside and maybe help communicate the behaviour change which is necessary to transform our country. So many unintended messages could have been sent had we taken the time to use technology in the vaccine roll-out.
The main document each person needed was their identification card. The information was copied into a book when you made the appointment, then a form was filled out at the Vaccine Centre and after receiving your vaccine, you were given a vaccination card. Couldn’t this have been done electronically and your certification emailed?
We have missed these opportunities in the first round, but thankfully it is not too late to develop the systems and processes necessary to digitize the second round. Taking that bold step requires a forward thinking leadership that understands systemic thinking and behaviour change. The leadership on this giant step should come from the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation (MPADT) which, as the name suggests, was established to lead our country’s digital transformation.
Part of the COVID-19 conversation speaks about building back better and bouncing back. As a developing country we need to go beyond bouncing back and figure out how to bounce forward and take our populations with us. The world has moved forward to a different landscape where using technology is common, available and all over the place. Trinidad and Tobago is far behind the curve but we need to find the means necessary to really transform our digital space and be part of the global conversation about sustainability and development.
The only future wave we need to be on
is the one powered by technology.