Local Government Ministry launches app to help access services

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Rural Development and Local Government Faris Al-Rawi and Minster of Digital Transformation Hassel Bacchus, at the launch of the TT mobile app by the ministry of rural development & local government, at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on Wednesday. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

In today’s world, the only commodity more valuable than oil is data.

So said Minister of Digital Transformation Hassel Bacchus at the launch of the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government’s (RDLG) Local TT mobile application on Wednesday.

The app will allow users to report local government problems affecting them.

Bacchus said the beauty of the app stems from its local genesis.

“It isn’t that it’s good, or fit for purpose. It’s not that it’s there to enhance the lives of the citizens of TT.

“The beauty of it is that it was built by our people right here. By TT, for TT and the world.”

This achievement, he said, reflects the high standards and reliability now expected from locally developed digital services.

Bacchus said had the app been developed elsewhere, it would be easily accepted locally.

“There would be a global acceptance about it. But the fact that people who have tried it out have said it’s good shows the expected quality, standard, fit for purpose, robustness, security people expect from internationally created applications is now understood and accepted here.”

Bacchus said this development signifies a growing trust among citizens in digital services, transforming their approach from scepticism to demand.

“People used to run away from technology, but now they demand it.”

RDLG minister Faris Al-Rawi contextualised the launch within the broader scope of governmental reforms and the nation’s economic challenges.

With half a billion dollars allocated to projects and the rest to salaries, Al-Rawi acknowledged the frustrations of citizens who pay taxes, yet feel underserved.

He noted the hidden costs in the public sector, such as subsidies on gas and low electricity rates, which obscure the true value of services.

“TT is at a crossroads, and we need to figure out how we can do more with less.”

Through the app, he said, citizens will gain transparency into project developments and other government activities.

Al-Rawi said the app’s first phase will centre on data capture and will target five of the 14 municipal corporations to optimise public-service delivery.

Port of Spain, San Fernando, Couva/ Tabaquite/ Talparo, Mayaro and Penal-Debe will be part of the pilot phase because of their diverse characteristics.

Al-Rawi said in the back end, the app will allow an economic framework reporting system to be created.

“Once data is captured, the ministry will be able to chart the heat mapping of the job being done, cost it, and from there we would be able to know how to co-ordinate services,” Al-Rawi explained.

Al-Rawi said the app will help to reduce the silo approach many agencies take, as once reports are received, they will be sieved and distributed to the relevant agencies.

“When I came into the ministry, it wasn’t moving as one singular entity, as different bodies were working in silos.

“The reports will be assessed and sent to WASA, Ministry of Works and Transport and T&TEC to address the problems.”

He added the app will necessitate a two-step registration process as a safeguard: “The two-step authentication process is important to prevent doxxing and fake news.”Doxxing is the unauthorised collecting and release of private information.

“It is also not lost on me that TT is in an election season, and as a result people might attempt to crash the app.”

Other features will include a disaster field, which will remain inactive until a national emergency arises

“The ministry is the frontline responder whenever a disaster arises. The app will be used to provide real-time updates and information to users.”

Another key functionality of the app is its traffic-light system – red for pending, yellow for “in progress” and green for completed projects.

This system will help citizens track the status of projects and facilitate accountability.