PANAMA 4.0

Panama 2014 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Irvin A. Halman, General Administrator of the National Authority for Governmental Innovation (AIG), on Panamanian investments in ICT and the sector's role in the economy.

Irvin A. Halman
BIOGRAPHY
Irvin A. Halman obtained a BS in Chemical Engineering from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, US, an MBA at the University of Rochester, US, and participated in the Kellogg Business School Advanced Management Program at Northeastern University in Chicago. He began his career in the Photographic Technology Division at Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, NY, followed by product development and marketing at the Motion Picture and Audiovisual Markets Division, and later served in management positions in Industria Nacional de Artefactos, S.A., Leasing Panama, Kodak Panama, Kodak Export, Ltd. and was Managing Director of the Division of Clinical Diagnosis of Eastman Kodak Co. and Johnson & Johnson Latin America. He was also Managing Director at DIASA and Commercial Director at ELGA.

The previous government invested more than $500 million in technology modernization projects for the country. What are your main priorities for the next five years?

Our priority is to advance the efforts that Panama has been making to become more competitive by further modernizing government, measuring ourselves against key indices and adopting the best international practices. The main objective of this modernization is to provide an open government, serve our Panamanian citizens and tourists, and to connect society as a whole. The informal and marginalized population needs to be incorporated into our growing economy. The more people and key sectors we have participating in the economy, the faster we can achieve higher levels of economic sophistication, and increase the GDP. We will be supporting the key export sectors like logistics, tourism, and services, while strengthening agriculture, among others. We view ICT as being a pillar to provide better quality education, healthcare, and government services. There is a nationwide commitment in terms of increasing government transparency, and eliminating bureaucratic impediments. That is where technology and the reengineering of our institutions in line with better governance standards comes in, recognizing that this is an ongoing process. During the next five years, we will be building upon our pre-existing experience with new initiatives. The concept of the National Authority for Government Innovation started three administrations ago, and we are in the process of deciding exactly what deliverables will this new version of “Panama 4.0" will bring before 2019.

What is the current share of the ICT sector within Panama's GDP?

The current share is probably less than 8% if you measure by the participation of companies in the ICT sector. This statistic spurred the government to invest more than $500 million in ICT. The ICT sector drives growth, and props up development and higher levels of sophistication in finance, education, the environment, and healthcare, and social services. AIG works across the board to support all of the e-government and modernizing initiatives. We will make better use of government mailing and cloud computing, as well as increase electronic transactions and payments. AIG will also expand its geographic resources. With e-commerce, we are taking special precautions to deal with new issues regarding cybercrime and identity theft. The new government has a commitment toward more efficient and agile services for citizens. We will be assuring procedures for government entities to follow criteria oriented toward creating the conditions for a level playing field in purchasing ICT products and services, so that investors are certain of their long-term prospects here. Panama has instituted a legal framework that, by putting it into action, will make online government documents and processes just as valid as those done on paper. That will be one of our key thrusts for this administration. All of the major components are in place for execution in the near term. AIG's mandate allows it to execute projects that transcend multiple entities, and thus take advantage of economies of scale and effective citizen services. We can also support individual entities in their specific digital agenda, and have the capacity to influence better nationwide e-government initiatives. Another facet of this transformation is the creation of a Technology Observatory, in order to assess the government's level of ICT readiness. This will help us develop a technological roadmap for our desired future.