Barbadian Cabinet Minister slams Government’s lengthy bureaucratic Process at Gala Dinner – John Gibbs paid tribute by Information Society of Barbados

I know I’ve mentioned it before – but the Chinese have a very sarcastic curse for people they dislike, “MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES” well, as far as I know I’ve never offended anyone of Oriental persuasion in this lifetime… Maybe I did so in a previous incarnation? Oy!

I am sure it ws my imagination but Senator Benn looked as though he jumped when he saw me, it's almost like he felt, "OMG, what will Bourne say NOW?"

Attended the Information Society of Barbados’ dinner at Accra Beach Resort in Rockley, the Society paid tribute to the contribution of Mr John Gibbs to Barbadian IT. The man was a co-founder of Systems SCL with Dr Basil Springer (many a radio announcer hearing the phraseSystems Surveywould get a chill until they heard the results), he also is the father of artist Catharine Cummins and is quite a charming person himself…

What I found not so charming were the sneers I earned because I marched up and down to snap pics for the event – this was not my surmise alone, the other members of the Media attending the event wanted to know what is up with this “WHY ARE YOU HERE?” attitude, this was also made clear by the fact the Press were placed to sit at the back of the room – away from the proceedings? This is not the first time I complained about such a poor attitude, they want coverage yet Media, Press or Social Media is an inconvenience? Suppose NONE of us show up? How does the Society disseminate its precious information then?

The room, not surprisingly was eerily quiet when the "fantastic meal" was brought up - then again, maybe the MC was being truthful it was such a disastrous set of edibles it had to be viewed as fantastic, maybe even Titanic?

Adding insult to injury was the purported meal, I had to get a $9.95 Beef & Potato special from across the road to make up for the shortfall… The salad was decoration (beet chopped into fan and shreds of lettuce with a hint of tartare sauce implied over the foliage) and the meal was more New Age sculpture (A medallion of Swordfish more like a Silver Dollar with a teeny portion of Chicken swathed in what seemed like Maple Syrup, some very soft carrots and a piece of Zucchini and a half-braised Potato) as for Dessert? It was some sort of Mousse with a Cookie Crumble, it’s like Ice Cream made with Whipped Creme and a little cookie baked in the shape of a Lyre… Why I dunno, since there was nothing musical about the meal?

It's hard to believe, but apparently John Gibbs used to sport a Ponytail - he looks so conventional now...

So eventually Dale, Accra’s Bell Captain, asked how was the meal, before anyone could say anything I blurted “It was more Art than filling!” He maintained a smile yet his face froze at the same time, he crisply replied the meal was A La Carte and I rejoined, “It was more like A La Art!!

Trust me, a happy camper was I NOT! The keynote and featured speakers luckily compensated for dreary evening and a worse meal. Commerce Minister Haynesley Benn was the lead up to Mr Gibbs, he actually gave a little joke which I’ve heard in different versions before as the ice-breaker, it was rather droll and it gave the Senator a chance to brag he’s been married 37 years.

Here's Mr Gibbs with ISB President James Corbin, John is also the founder of Axses Communications, as well as the website "What's On Barbados"

What I found was more intriguing was his comparative analysis of the Private Sector to Civil Service (Always wonder why it gets called that when they seldom are?) and he recalled his days at Da Costa Manning’s {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO}?

Senator Benn missed how at DaCosta Manning’s he could liaise with the CEO and implement a choice or policy in 1/2 an hour, while in Government the same process can take as much as a month if one is lucky, as it can be longer – then he entreats the Media not to use this very clip he just uttered?

I meanReally? Why are you disparaging where you are now, know you’re being recorded and yet appeal to the media not to use the soundbite as grist for your item? It seems the Minister is going full speed ahead for an E-Commerce initiative and wants it ready for approval by month-end.

I think the Senator wanted to see how many Press Corps were good li'l sheep - he decides to make a gaffe then urge them not to use what they already recorded... With ME in the Audience? That's like asking the Sun to rise in the West!

Senator Benn says he’s fully aware how the use of computers as a “business tool” in Barbados is on the increase with data being processed, stored and retrieved. Businesses now communicate through the e-mail and words such as e-commerce, e-business, e-readiness and e-government are buzz words. The Minister observed this information technology revolution has brought with it many opportunities to access data, people and markets that was unprecedented. It therefore spurred an increased interaction of people through communication, travel and the export of goods and services. {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Benn says the Ministry of Commerce and Trade will be developing an Innovation Strategic Plan for Barbados. This strategy will feature a vigorous campaign aimed at taking the spirit of innovation across the entire country as well as programmes which focus on training and teaching our populace how to be creative and innovative.

Benn’s Ministry responded to the task at hand, he says, by enacting the following pieces of legislation:

The Electronic Transaction Act – which seeks to give legal status to contract form electronically. One anticipates that through this Act the time it takes to complete contracts would be drastically reduced, to the satisfaction of consumers.

The Computer Misuse Act – which seeks to protect computer systems and information contained therein. {BR’s Note: How does this ratify with the proposed FOI Bill? Where do they clash or bisect each other and dovetail neatly?}

In addition to the legislation enacted, Commerce also drafted the Data Protection Act with a view of regulating the collection, processing, storage and dissemination of personal data. He says this Act should go a long way in making persons feel comfortable when divulging information to the public and private sector. {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

According to the Cabinet Minister – “This Project will allow for the online provision of the services offered by the Ministry and its departments. A fully functional electronic document management system will be established which will have the capability to offer application forms to the public and business community online. Interfacing with the Ministry will be faster and more effective. In terms of the ICT Strategy, consultants have been contracted to develop operational plans for implementation. We expect to have the final report in early August, 2011.”

The DLP Senator says his Government is mindful of the equally importance of innovation to Barbados’ economic development and the need to transform the country into an “innovative society”.

As for Mr Gibbs, he is a very fascinating dude, like Owen Arthur he finalised his learning at UWI in Jamaica’s Mona Campus and eventually married a Jamaican gal and they eventually returned to Barbados in 1979 as he had “Lead Poisoning (allergy to bullets)” when juxtaposed with a pal and his spouse who got murdered while at a hotel buying a pack of cigarettes as Innocent Bystanders.

Shortly after arrival, he formed Systems SCL with Dr Springer and he noted the following accomplishments {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

There was the Micro Pay Payroll system which was used throughout the region, then the Central Banks of Belize and Barbados began with software which would revolutionise the Caribbean’s fiscal sector and then there was the national Insurance system, and John also recognised the dedicated work of now-KPMG’s Brenda Pope in making those systems become a reality.

Systems SCL also changed the lives of Students who no longer did “O” Level exams {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

The initial programme which scanned CXC papers, compiled marks and even printed certificates was a long and arduous task which meant little sleep as the system was constantly under surveillance that all was smooth, Mr Gibbs credited this to Dr David Beckles.

What was hilarious with Mr Gibbs is when he confused the switch to power the computer and the switch to turn on the monitor {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Around three o’clock in the morning, Gibbs went to see how the computer was doing to compile marks from a CXC Test. The monitors were off to prevent their pixels burning, but he hit the wrong switch… It was the POWER button and when he turned on the screen with his other hand, he learned he had to keep it “ON” for at least another 1/2 hour – he discovered muscles he didn’t know his finger had! Then the phone rang…

While humourous, MR Gibbs continues to remain profound as it relates to IT, he wondered the next level after Twitter & Facebook and how it can change the Internet {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Citing the revolutions of Libya & Egypt which the world knew via Facebook or Twitter, Mr Gibbs wondered if websites still have relevancy in this early part of the 21st Century?

The usual presentations were made after the speeches and Vote Of Thanks, with former Toastmaster James Corbin as president of the ISB offering a gift to Mr Gibbs.

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