Coming in for praise

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Antigua is one of those places where it is easy to find things to criticize, especially in the areas of politics and government.  This is likely because we are so divided in our politics that everyone speaks in absolutes and takes the position that their party can do no wrong.  That said, there are areas that we should come together and praise without the need to point fingers or selfishly take praise.
This is especially true when we look at the government.  The thing that we, as a people, miss about government is that it is continuous.  Sorry for the generality, but there is really no other way to put it.  Because of our political tribalism, we do not see government as an institution that is permanent and there to serve the people.  Every time an administration changes, the default mode is to heap criticism on the former administration and claim that the current administration inherited a “mess”.  This go-to excuse is cheered by supporters and, naturally, booed by critics.  It creates a strange perception (maybe a better word is phenonomum) that every time a new administration takes the helm, all of government changes.
With that said, we would like to send some praise to the people who work behind the scenes in service of the citizenry.  It sometimes takes just one good experience with the public administration machinery to put a smile on our faces and realize that all is not lost to darkness.  One such experience was retold by an Observer employee and their use of the Antigua & Barbuda Transport Board’s (ABTB) online license renewal. 
It is interesting to hear that the government has ‘E’ anything.  Our government’s past ventures into the electronic world have been mired in corruption, overspending and frustration.  We can all recall the numerous announcements and promises of an e-government platform.  A platform where people would be able to interact with the various government departments in real time and say goodbye to the long lines and wasted time that are usually associated with an in-person visit. 
In any case, after the initial shock and natural reaction of “really?!?!”, the positive review of the ABTB’s online system was refreshing.  The efficiency of the system can be summarized in just a few simple steps.  1) Visit the website.  2) Register and login 3) Enter personal information and choose renewal period. 4) Enter preferred payment option. 5) Pick-up new licensing card at ABTB headquarters in Potters.
Who could believe that it could be so simple?  There were apparently a few very minor hi-cups, but nothing that detracted from
the efficiency of process.  So, well done ABTB.  (It is reported that the process is smoothest when ABTA is given at least 24 hours to process the renewal.  Then it is a pick-up and go
process – virtually no waiting.)
The next step is to widely publicize this service.  We know that announcements have been made and there have been some attempts at public education, but there needs to be a greater effort on the promotion side.  After all, these are the kinds of services that makes you feel good about your government.
And yes, that is “services” with an “s”.  Just head on over to the Government’s e-services portal at ab.gov.ag and you will see that there are already four online services available.  You can search for information about
lands in Antigua, check or register for a business, renew your driver’s license and pay for an electronic entry visa. 
We did not try any of these services, so this is by no means a review of the government’s efforts towards online services and how efficient they are, or even if they work aside from the driver’s license renewal.  As well, we have no idea what these systems cost the taxpayer, so we will not offer any opinion on value for money.  Rather, we just want to point out that these e-services exist and we are glad that they do.
We can think of so many other areas where online services can be deployed to improve the interaction between the citizenry and the government, and we truly hope that someone, or a team, is tasked with this analysis.  More to the point, we hope that solutions materialize and we can continue to praise the government – the continuous government – that serves all the people of this bit of paradise.
In the meantime, we encourage you to visit the e-services portal and use the services that already exist.  If they are all as efficient as the ABTA driver’s license renewal process, then we are sure you will be pleased.  If they are not, then support the various initiatives with constructive criticism so that they can get better.  Note that we said “constructive criticism”.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.
 

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