the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexjun 23, 2017

Cornerstones for our 21st Century ICT Agenda – GOS 21.0 An Urgent Imperative Opening Address By The Governor of Sint Maarten His Excellency drs. Eugene B. Holiday Delivered at the 6th Annual Governor’s Symposium 2017 “ICT GOVERNANCE SHAPING OUR FUTURE”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning,

It is with great pleasure that I bid you welcome to the sixth annual Governor’s Symposium. I hereby, also on behalf of Marie-Louise, extend a special welcome to my Colleagues the Governor of Aruba, Mr. Alfonso Boekhoudt and the Governor of Curacao Mrs. Lucille George-Wout as well as to Her Husband Mr. Herman George. It is good to have you here participating in this Governor’s Symposium.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to see so many persons from a broad cross section of our community in attendance.
The goal of this sixth annual Governor’s Symposium is to increase awareness of the importance, and of the risks involved in, ICT. My intention is to contribute to the further development of an ICT-governance agenda towards the shaping of our nation’s future. At this symposium regional and national speakers and panelist will speak and interact with you on developments in ICT with a focus on infrastructure, innovations, threats, security and governance each from their own perspective. It is my hope that you will have an enjoyable and fruitful symposium.

I believe that this topic is important because of the potential of ICT actions today to affect and/or spur national growth tomorrow. The potential of ICT is embedded in the fact that increasingly ICT is everywhere, influencing everyone and everything and at the same time highly vulnerable. To put this into perspective it should be noted that it is not that long ago that ICT’s role in our life was hardly noticeable. I say this based on the following highlights in my personal experiences with ICT:
a) In 1982, during my first year in university, I used a computer for the first time, it was a cumbersome main frame computer;
b) In 1987 I started working and used my first desktop computer. A quick glance shows us how different these devices were compared to today’s computer devices;
c) In 1994 I used my first mobile phone, which is a world removed from today’s mobile phone;  and
d) In 1997 I opened my first email account on my desktop computer.
e) Fast forward to today, I have multiple online accounts – an amazon account, a Netflix account, a Facebook account, to name a few, all connected to my mobile devices.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over a span of 35 years, and primarily during the last 20 years, ICT has in effect transformed and continues to transform our lives. As I said, ICT is increasingly everywhere and influencing everyone and everything:
a) there are people who practically live online ;
b) our mobile phones have evolved into computers on the go.
c) our vehicles are increasingly computers on wheels;
d) our medical devices are software driven computers; and
e) these and other devices are becoming increasingly interconnected via the internet.
It is estimated that by 2020, 4 billion people will be connected, using more than 25 million applications, transmitting in excess of 50 trillion gigabytes of data, representing 4 trillion US dollars’ worth of business. In short the transition to the “Internet of Things” where everyone and everything will be interconnected, is upon us and we cannot afford to fall behind.

Our 21st century digital reality, has changed the way we interact and behave and, with that, our expectations. There is as a result a need for a National ICT Governance Agenda: GOS 21.0; which stands for 21st century Governance Operating System. GOS 21.0 is necessary to navigate the digital world we live in, to ensure a more effective management of our socio-economic development.

Considering the bandwidth allotted to me to communicate my message I shall, touch briefly on what I view as four cornerstones of the GOS 21.0 agenda.

First, the success of our GOS 21.0 agenda will depend on the establishment of a national governance structure, as an integral part of the agenda, anchored in legislation. Core elements of which should include a Chief Information Officer in government and a coordination mechanism with broad-based public – private participation to develop and oversee the implementation of the agenda.

Second, to leverage the opportunities of ICT, it is imperative that mandatory ICT education is established as a focal point of the GOS 21.0 agenda. This to ensure that we, in addition to being consumers, become producers of ICT services. The need for this is to ensure that Sint Maarten become a “smart society” catering to the needs of our population and the visitors that drive our economy. 

Third, the digital society has changed the way we interact and behave and, with that, our expectations. As a tourist economy our ICT infrastructure must meet the same standards as our main tourist markets. This to ensure that we meet travelers’ expectations, anytime, anywhere and in real time. Access and the speed of transmission of data and information over the internet are key to this new, interconnected world. The growth of our tourism economy and thus our livelihood depends on it. GOS 21.0 therefore calls for a sound ICT Infrastructure Plan. Such a plan should facilitate continued upgrades and expansion, of for example our fiber optic network, to meet residents and tourists demand for high-speed broadband and wireless access.

And fourth, the numerous media reports, ranging from the hacking of bank accounts, to the disruption of elections or ransomware attacks on our government systems, underscore the need to protect our systems and data. As a result cybersecurity – in terms of awareness, preparedness, and response programs – must be one of the cornerstones of our GOS 21.0 agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Former president Barack Obama in speaking about the importance of ICT stated and I quote: “The Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity”. Unquote. It is therefore, in my opinion, an ongoing and urgent imperative to invest in an affordable, reliable and safe ICT infrastructure to power our community in the digital age.

Ladies and gentlemen,
By heeding this urgent imperative in a concerted public-private effort to develop and implement our GOS 21.0 Agenda we stand to participate and benefit in the vast educational, health care and socio-economic opportunities of the digital era.

On the flip side we run the risk of being hacked and becoming disconnected from the rest of the world only to be plunged into cyber darkness.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hereby, emphasizing the imperative of an ICT Governance agenda GOS 21.0 to shape our future, declare this symposium OPEN.