Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Promotion, Hon. Marlon Penn did not mince words as he accused his fellow legislators of dropping the ball on technological advancement for the Territory and he warned that they should take heed of how technology saved the financial services sector in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
During the debate of the Recovery and Development Agency (RDA) Plan on 23 October Hon. Penn reminded his colleagues that he has spent his entire time in office begging at various opportunities for the BVI to invest more in technology and embrace digital evolution, however he said that his voice seems to fall on deaf ears.
“One of the biggest mistakes that we made and I continue to harp on that in this House of Assembly is ICT and our failure to ensure that we build a proper ICT infrastructure not just from the public sector but from the private sector,” Hon. Penn announced.
He told the legislators that the Territory needs a strategic approach, not just from each department doing their own thing but a single plan for ICT. “Develop a comprehensive approach to the ICT development in this country that is part of a foundation for growing our economy. That’s what Singapore did, they built the infrastructure and everything else was built on top of that infrastructure and there is no reason why we cannot do that here,” Hon. Penn said.
“Since 2011 when I got into this house every budget I spoke about this topic and we’ve not allocated a penny for ICT development. Every budget cycle DOIT has to come to the House scrambling in Standing Finance [Committee] for money just to pay for their recurrent expenditure, their licenses and so forth. We are not taking ICT seriously. Have we not learned from what happened with Irma? Had it not been for the works that were done with the Financial Services Commission and the people of the financial services to ensure that VIRRGIN was developed and that was done since 2006. I know I was there,” Hon. Penn said.
The Junior Minister announced that he worked along with the team at FSC to ensure that VIRRGIN was done and he mentioned that the project attracted a lot of criticism including claims that it was a waste of money. “I live to see that it was on the back of VIRRGIN that our economy survived. On the back of that same system everybody said that it was a waste of money. A waste of time is why this country did not lose its financial services. Two days after Irma despite the devastation, VIRRGIN was back, up and running; and it could have been one day…Have we not learned from that?” he asked.