| 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
User Acceptance Testing (UAT) meetings
GoLive team meetings
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.
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.
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.