Information, Resolution and Communication Portal (IRCP)
Office of the Prime Minister

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Prior to the launch of the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal (IRCP), the Public Service of Trinidad and Tobago relied on many bureaucratic processes to allow access to public services. These processes were tedious and non-responsive. There were generally no feedback mechanisms and processes were based on extensive paper trails. As a result, the complaint resolution processes in most Government Organizations were isolated in silos, with lack of accountability and little visibility to senior management. This contributed to the inefficiencies of the public service and deteriorating relations between general citizenry and the Government. These commonly voiced inefficiencies can be examined using three overarching categories. The first category is based on the accessibility of information and the right of all citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to information. This accessibility, or lack thereof, refers to the absence of a central repository of information for the use of visitors (both locally and regionally) and citizens. It would allow a thoroughfare for the access of all pertinent information with regard to the function of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. Another issue was the lack of a forum for users to access information on Permanent Secretaries and key government officials. With the current administration, the “People’s Partnership” focusing on good governance and transparency found that this was in dire need of resolution. Citizens also often complained of the lack of coherent, logical and methodical advice and instruction necessary to access public services. This systematically resulted in numerous resubmissions of requests for service and recycled complaints that added to low response time in an already overburdened public service. As a subcategory of the general citizenry, members of the Civil Service have also suffered from an inability to access information from a human resource perspective. Civil servants are guided by state regulations that stress the importance of process. Personnel matters for members of the civil service typically were dealt with by supervisors, circumventing the ability to gather unbiased information and healthy discourse with higher ranked civil service officials. The second category is resolution. There was a distinct need to bring resolution to a myriad of complaints made against Ministries in a variety of areas. Typical areas for resolution include access to services, poor customer service, etc. The state is the largest provider of services that can range from agricultural licenses to social welfare programs. It is expected given the variety and quantum of services provided, there will be shortcomings in service delivery; however, these shortcomings would not pose a threat if consistent service resolution was institutionalized. Prior to the IRCP, citizens had a number of disjointed means of voicing displeasure with respect to Government Services. These means included via their Member of Parliament’s Office as well as the Office of the Ombudsman. These offices were also burdened by long, bureaucratic and tedious process that provided little redress; under these conditions problem resolution could take years. This was only worsened by the lack of feedback from these Offices once a complaint was submitted, the lack of visibility led to a severe Public Relations issue and resulted in a generally poor image of the civil service. The third category which there was a need to address is communication and engagement with the Citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago. The civil service is guided from a bottom up approach and this customarily restricts access to the senior level public servants, particularly the Head of the Public Service. This approach significantly reduced the opportunity for successful complaint resolution or process enhancement. In a more unilateral manner, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago also were as a “voice in the dark” directing complaints in systems which had no means of communicating with them, enforcing an image of the Government as a faceless monolith. These issues of: (i) lack of communication; (ii) ineffective resolution; and (iii) the dearth of general information can be looked at singularly as well as holistically.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
“A problem well defined is a problem half solved” (Charles Kettering, 1876-1958) is the guiding principle behind the development of the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal (IRCP). The IRCP originated through collaboration between the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister and Head of the Public Service (Mr. Reynold Cooper) and the Director of the Policy, Strategy and Government Performance Management Division (Mr. Jamir Nazir) within the Office of the Prime Minister. This collaboration sought to address the issues of the lack of information, communication and resolution that deeply affected the image and efficiency of the civil service of Trinidad and Tobago. The collaboration between these offices identified the framework on which the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal would be built. The Information, Resolution and Communication Portal is an innovative and revolutionary system that provides real time, two way communication between the citizenry and the Head of the Public Service. The portal also functions as a single stop online repository that houses all information on the state ranging from links to other ministries to a full listing of contact information for all Permanent Secretaries in the Civil Service. The objective of the portal is to utilize technology to vastly improve service delivery and communication between the government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and its stakeholders. We will be looking at the manner in which the IRCP has provided solutions in the following categories: (i) Information; (ii) Resolution; and (iii) Communication. The Information arm represents the system’s ability to provide a single stop setting for a plethora of information of interest to its stakeholders: the citizenry, students, researchers, domestic institutions, public servants, as well, as its international counterparts. Information is now available at the click of a button on World Wide Web (www.ircp.gov.tt), with access on a 24/7 basis, year round. The information arm of the portal provides formal publications governing Trinidad and Tobago such as:  The constitution of the Trinidad and Tobago;  Legislative information;  Government programmes;  Code of conduct for the Public Service;  History of the Public Service;  Links to various Government Ministries and other Offices;  Profiles on Ministries that do not currently possess websites;  Profile and contact information for key Government and Ministry Officials;  Current happenings within the Government;  Information on obtaining visas to visit Trinidad and Tobago;  A full listing of profiles and contact information for all Permanent Secretaries. This function of the IRCP Portal was developed to address the issue of information unavailability; and  Polls and surveys to identify the needs of its citizens. This feature solved the issue of the lack of complete and coherent information needed by the public. The Resolution arm represents the portal’s response to the issue of problem resolution. It allows the system to capture and resolve complaints and service issues from individuals (citizens and expatriates), institutions as well as members of the Public Service. The complaint resolution feature is currently accessible by direct log in, web-based access and SMS messaging. A primary feature of the system is the web based interface that has been designed to simply and automatically categorize the nature of the complaint and direct same to the ministry responsible for its resolution. Upon complaint submission, the issue is also lodged in a database administered by the Office of the Prime Minister. A unique identification ticket is generated and assigned to the complainant. This unique ticket allows the user to track the status of the complaint until its resolution. The Communication feature that allows the free flow of communication also influences the policy making process of the Government. Users are also able to submit policy suggestions, which boost the Government’s internal knowledge base and can direct the development of policy. It also acts as a morale booster for Public Servants by granting confidential access to the Head of the Public Service. The communication arm gives Government the opportunity to become responsive to the needs of the citizens and their views on topics that affect their community and in public affairs.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The IRCP’s creativity is based on its use of the fastest and latest web-based communication mediums such as Facebook, SMS, Twitter, live Blog, and Chat-rooms, to encourage positive communication for the future civil service development. Its novel perspective has led to its ability to provide a multitude of services that include a “single stop” online venue for an array of information on the Government and Government Services. It presents an innovative way for the citizenry to feel comfortable and be allowed the privacy to lodge a complaint of poor service with the assurance that it will be addressed by the Ministry on behalf of the Permanent Secretary. Another inventive characteristic is its unique ticket ID system that allows the complainant to track his/her complaint through to its resolution using through various channels such as emails and SMS. The IRCP is revolutionary in its provision of contact to the Head of the Public Service. No previous ICT system in Trinidad and Tobago allowed access to Head of the Public Service to lodge suggestions, complaints or concerns. This portal allows an open policy for communication at the highest level in the Civil Service. These innovative features have solidified the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal as necessary feature in Government transformation.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Portal was conceptualized within the Office of the Prime Minister during strategic discussions between the Permanent Secretary and the Head of the Policy, Strategy and Government Performance Management Division. These discussions lead into the creation of a philosophical construct as well as a detailed brief of benefits, features and interfaces required for the portal. Consequently, a bid for tender was put out seeking an established software developer to assist in realizing the vision of the Office of the Prime Minister’s (OPM’s) two strategic heads. The vendor selected was SIE Services Limited, a well-established Trinidadian vendor with international presence in India, South Africa and a number of other countries. Following the tender completion, there were intense and collaborative brainstorming sessions between the Prime Minister’s officials and the vendor. After several months of concentrated and combined effort a working system was developed. The preliminary beta version of the site went through several rounds of review, user testing and modifications by stakeholder groups before arriving at a final version of the system. Sub-committee meetings were held on a regular basis, these user driven committees included:  Governance Board meetings  Meetings of the Project management team  Prototype discussions  User Acceptance Testing (UAT) meetings  GoLive team meetings 10 In addition, organizational changes were made which included:  The formation of a dedicated Content Management Board  The allocation of an Administrator for regular system maintenance  The appointment of a researcher for the site  The designation of resolution specialists in each ministry  The appointment of social media specialists As part of its initial implementation, the Portal was rolled out to Permanent Secretaries for feedback and input. This gave Permanent Secretaries the opportunity to interact with the Portal and ensure that it was versed and equipped to meet the needs of the population, particularly through the services provided through their various Ministries. Please see below a model framework of the feedback mechanisms. The strategy enlisted by the design team disseminated the roles of the Portal into categories to be further developed. These categories were: (i) Social Media Social media applications were incorporated into the IRCP as the main channels of communication that targeted all age groups (youth, adult and elderly) in its interaction with technology. Given the high internet penetration rate of the population2, the IRCP targeted the use of web-based technologies as fast and efficient communication mediums. (ii) The role of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Head of the Public Service. The legislative arm of the portal includes the Office of the Prime Minister. This arm also facilitates unrestricted citizen-centric communication, unlike other government and state agencies and has the ability to guide policy formation and implementation. (iii) Feedback This core aspect of the strategy sought to define a succinct avenue to receive as much information as possible in order to adequately address the concerns of the system user. To achieve same, the portal used an easily accessible and simple form to guide the user when submitting a complaint. This allowed the collection of citizen feedback in a comprehensive manner that allows action and resolution to take place in the long run forming part of policy formulation. (iv) Notification This feature of the portal was designed to incorporate both the backend and the front end interfaces of the portal. The back end sought to be able to display aged report generation for all Ministries and notify the Head of the Public Service of levels of performance through resolution times. At the front-end the design team sought to be able to notify users through unique-ID tickets to facilitate tracking of submissions lodged within the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal for resolution.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The implementation of the IRCP was brought by collaboration between the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister and Head of the Public Service Mr. Reynold Cooper and Head of the Policy, Strategy and Government Performance Management Division, Mr. Jamir Nazir. These discussions prompted the early development and system idealization that was further developed into the IRCP. Other major stakeholders that aided in the development of the IRCP included: (i) Civil Servants that partook in many discussions that highlighted the needs and concerns within the Civil Service that could be changed with the portal conception; (ii) SIE Services Limited, the developer charged with the programming and building of the portal; (iii) Government institutions; (iv) the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago; (v) the Policy, Strategy and Government Performance Management Division; (vi) the Content Management Board of the Office of the Prime Minister; and (vii) Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago invested approximately TT$250,000 in software development for the development of the IRCP. As the system becomes more feature and function rich, additional financial resources will be required to support further communication interfaces, such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and secured message posting and collaboration which can be used by Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries as well as retired Permanent Secretaries. The nature of the portal promotes the confidential and unfettered access to the Head of the Public Service. For this reason, security detail was of immense importance. As such, the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal is housed within a tier four security facility to provide an added degree of protection. Tier four (4) data center is useful for data center performance, investment and return on investment (ROI) tool. Tier four (4) data centers are considered the most robust and less prone to system failures, down time and designed to host mission critical servers and computer systems with subsystems (cooling, power, network links and storage) and compartmentalized security zones controlled by biometric access controls methods. During project start up and execution, a Content Management Board was set up to monitor and implant the relevant data population fields for the Portal. The Content Management Board was set up to measure the site’s impact by frequently measuring the relevance and usefulness of the site’s content to its targeted audience via polls and surveys. The IRCP was rolled out to Permanent Secretaries in 2013 to maximize interaction and in attempt to identify the earliest possible concerns to be addressed. Upon confirmation of the portal’s usefulness, the Policy, Strategy and Government Performance Management Division operated as the primary access point of the IRCP. This prime access point is charged with monitoring the day to day running of the site, complaint acknowledgement and ticket ID generation. This team also generates progress reports on individual ministries to identify trends such as average response time for resolution, common complaints made by citizens, suggestions that can be used in policy documents, formulation of policy documents as well as any shortcomings of the portal in terms of traffic and connectivity issues.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The IRCP is able to assert many successes inclusive of:  Unfettered access to the Head of the Public Service: The Head of the Public Service was not available for such wide and unrestricted access by the civil service as well as from citizens. This advantageous output has increased the visibility of the Head of the Public Service.  A central repository that hosts all suggestions, complaints and concerns that influence the effectiveness of the Public Service: This output allowed the Public Service an alternate avenue where suggestions for improved service delivery are given by its users; the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and anyone that seeks to access any government service.  The ability to have citizens feedback directly affect policy formation and implementation: This success, though underestimated, will impact on future policy amendments; and formulation will be directly from the perspective of the citizen. This facet of the portal’s capacity will allow daily meaningful comments/suggestions and a forum to be heard without being lost in the long processes of policy formulation.  Access to instant tracking of one’s complaint: This feature has placed the citizen in a more influential and citizen-centric position. Citizens can track the status of their concern at any time convenient to them prompting ease of mind of knowing that they can exercise their right to good customer service and the assurance of resolution.  The ability to have significant monitoring impact on Government Performance through the eyes of citizens: The IRCP allows for the generation of stale dated complaint reports. This allows back end users to pull reports reflecting unanswered complaints for periods of 30 days, 60 days and over 90 days. These reports are submitted to the monthly Board Meetings of Permanent Secretaries for their review and to increase accountability and transparency within the Public Service. Further, given the high rate of internet penetration in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (which we have previously cited is over 80%) we also consider that the Social Media presence of the IRCP is a success which will only grow in magnitude in the years to come.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The IRCP is a self-monitoring system that uses communication inputs made by comments, blogs, chats and polls to report on the usefulness of the system by its users. The IRCP’s test team also ensures that the portal is regularly monitored to confirm functionality of all services at all times. For example, a user that complains the portal is not addressing his/her issue in a timely manner serves a reminder to the Portal Resolution team that there is an overdue issue requiring attentions and thereby improves the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the portal. Evaluation of activities was measured through the following outputs of the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal (i) The generation of aged reports. The generated reports will be quantified at thirty (30), sixty (60) and ninety (90) day periods to show the resolution times of concerns submitted to be addressed. These reports provided a monitoring function as it displayed Ministries’ response time to address complaints. In addition to measuring response times, it also monitors a Ministry’s ability to completely address a complaint and file as a closed complaint as a result of its successful resolution. It is stressed that complaints are to be completely resolved and not just relayed in the “in progress” status. (ii) The capacity of the Head of the Public Service to be able to have easily accessible information on each Ministry’s response time and time taken to address issues. This facet of the IRCP brought transparency to all government Ministries that are held to identifiable performance standards by the Head of the Public Service. (iii) The use of live-chat and blogs to allow users to give real time communication channels and further enhance the feedback aspect of the design strategy.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
During the development stage of the project there were several obstacles as to final form and format of the user interface of the project. These were subjected to several consultative sessions, including focus groups and final designs that were tested by members of the stakeholder group. Additionally, when the initiative was first discussed with various Ministries (who are the end service providers); there were a number of sceptics given the additional work and effort required to make the system successful. This was overcome by emphasising the high level of automation and the benefits the system would provide improving Ministries’ service delivery and performance. Due to the high level of technical integration needed for full functionality, there were some hiccups vis-à-vis the introduction of text messaging technology to the site. This required some months of user testing and was overcome with the expert skill of SIE Services Limited in conjunction with the telecommunications service providers of the country. User testing was then conducted to ensure full functionality. Another area of concern was the potentially large number of follow ups that may be required in individual cases and the corresponding need for the Prime Minister’s office to assign staff to follow up with various government ministries. In an attempt to prevent hiring of additional staff, a partnership was forged between Customer Service Desks that were set up with another government office and the Ministry of the People and Social Development, to provide follow ups directly with other government ministries.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Benefits of implementing the IRCP are numerous, far reaching in areas both quantifiable and intangible. These benefits include a more highly motivated work force as a direct result of communication with the Head of the Public Service. This communication medium provided an alternate route for redress in instances where less than cordial supervisors may not allow proper procedure and resolution to take place. The portal also provides civil servants with an avenue to suggest innovative and novel ways of accomplishing goals and fulfilling mandates of Ministries that leads to better service delivery to the public. This benefit taps into the vast knowledge capacity that may include pertinent and influential ideas and methods to expedite government processes and promote often simple and overlooked solutions that can benefit the public service. Another benefit is the portal’s ability to provide a reservoir of feedback from the public. This feedback can be used to shape policy, for example recent policy adjustments to the Dangerous Dogs Act and the provisions made for the nation’s youth population in the National Children’s Life Fund. The IRCP also allows for the provision of cross-functionality between Permanent Secretaries as it encourages a greater understanding of each Permanent Secretary’s job in collaboration with the Head of the Public Service. An increased level of citizen engagement is also a significant benefit of the IRCP as it encourages good governance through citizen surveys and civil servants ideas for problem resolution. It allows a forum where citizens can feel comfortable in voicing their concerns. Coming from this engagement with the citizen, we have found that the image of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Head of Public Service as a citizen-centric organization is further recognized. Over time, use of the portal has increased as seen from the back end counter showing the number of uses and engagements of the portal by its visitors. This increase has served to support its effectiveness and usefulness as tool of good governance. The increased use of the portal has also led to the improved accessibility to government officials and to the functions of the civil service by embracing new technologies. Additionally, the IRCP has increased the transparency of government procedure as complaints and issues to be resolved can be tracked both by the complainant and the government official responsible for resolution. The IRCP has also increased communication levels among Permanent Secretaries and has given a greater understanding of other Permanent Secretaries jobs. This increased collaboration has also increased dialogue and suggestions to increase the efficiency of the Civil Service. Finally, the IRCP gives the Head of the Public Service the benefit of increased oversight of all ministries under his remit. It can be used by the Head of the Public Service to measure and manage performance of other Permanent Secretaries and ministries by monitoring the time taken to resolve issues submitted to respective ministries.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The Information, Resolution and Communication Portal is an easily transferable and a sustainable effort which can be used to foster participation in policy generation through its innovative design. The IRCP is the first system of its kind in the Caribbean that has been developed through comprehensive consultation and discussion that sought to remedy the current cumbersome communication channels when attempting to gain access to the Head of the Public Service. Additionally, the portal interacts with a wide cross-section of the population by using interactive channels such as Facebook, twitter, Google plus, SMS blogs, live chat, as well as future plans of Interactive Voice Response Technology. This facet of the IRCP has been a momentous tool in engaging and encouraging citizen participation and thus supporting its place in good governance as a needed tool in the future. Sustainability of the Public Service is also promoted in the Civil Service’s vision in its shift from ‘Gold to Diamond’ Standard that reflects the “Journey towards the Renewal and Modernization” through modern technologies that can relate to the present needs of the society. The Information, Resolution and Communication Portal promotes the government’s renewed vision of modernization to enhance the sustainability of the state as the most exclusive provider of services for the benefit of citizens in Trinidad and Tobago. The Portal can be replicated to produce a channel that engages decision-support systems, government networking and consultation. This channel of communication can engage more effective policymaking and implementation in other territories as it has done in Trinidad and Tobago as the Information, Resolution and Communication Portal. The IRCP is easily transformable as it enlists the use of simple and comprehensive ideas and replicable technological applications to support the functioning of the unit. Furthermore, the IRCP has won in its category of Innovation in Citizens Engagement and Dialogue for the 2014 Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM). This body has effectively certified the likely international impact this system can have and acknowledges its potential of being a transferable support framework in other territories. The IRCP has also been a featured item at the Caribbean Child Rights Observatory Network (CCRON) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Activate Talks held in October 2014 at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. These talks were entitled: “The Use of Data and Technology for Informing Children’s Policy”. These were the inaugural Activate Talks for the Eastern Caribbean Region. The Head, Policy, Strategy and Government Performance Management of the Office of the Prime Minister - Mr. Jamir Nazir presented on the benefits of the Portal to a wide cross section of stakeholders in the Public Service, Non-Governmental Organizations as well as the student community.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The IRCP provided tremendous learning tools in terms of using technology and ICT in bringing the government closer to the citizenry and allowing them to participate in the decision making process and governance. Lessons learnt as a result of implementing the IRCP were based on the old adage that “hindsight is 20/20”. During the portal’s formation there was a high staff turnover which led to an underestimated number of gaps in its timely development and completion. This taught the Division a significant lessons vis-à-vis succession planning, which has been incorporated into the Strategic Plan. Another consideration to be looked at was the task of coordinating the time to meet with the Permanent Secretary. At the executive level, the Permanent Secretary is not always readily available as matters over line ministries may take precedence. It is pertinent to understand the invaluable input that can be made by the senior level official and the design team. However, such time delays are expected and should be planned for when setting milestones and project targets. Accessibility challenges also proved to be a learning juncture whereby it was difficult to integrate pages such as Facebook because the government’s ICT system has blocked such social media websites. Recommendations were solicited from the National Agency for developing the Government’s enterprise-wide ICT strategies and programmes, iGovTT, at an earlier stage to guard against delays in the development of the site. There is also a need for a user-friendly cross functional accessibility function. This is to allow collaboration with Permanent Secretaries through the development of a novel addition of a personal profile-type interface to increase the Permanent Secretary’s discussions and online workshops. Another recommendation is the use of high-level dashboards to provide reports for the Head of the Public Service and other Permanent Secretaries. This private page will allow Permanent Secretaries the advantage of communicating with the Head of the Public Service at convenient times for all as their busy schedules usually restrict such frequent personal meetings. It is recommended that IRCP suggestions and project implementation be allowed to guide policy suggestions and formation. Lastly, the IRCP will also benefit greatly from the integration of other mediums of communication such as a full content centre that allows communication from traditionally typed methods such as letters, phone calls and walk-ins to be integrated with the newer forms used in the IRCP.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Office of the Prime Minister
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Jamir Nazir
Title:   Mr.  
Telephone/ Fax:   868‐622‐1625 Ext. 2216
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   nazirj@gov.tt  
Address:   15 St. Clair Avenue
Postal Code:  
City:   Port of Spain
State/Province:  
Country:  

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