The following statement was released on May 28, by One Bermuda Alliance Senator Robin Tucker, Candidate for Constituency 7, Hamilton South…
In the Speech from the Throne of November 2021, the Government announced plans to digitize and automate Immigration application processes. This long overdue and vitally important project is needed to bring our Immigration application processes, particularly work permit application processes, into the 21st century.
Economy & Labour Minister Jason Hayward informed the House of Assembly in December 2021 that the Department of Immigration “is under immense pressure to modernize its services through the increased use of technology”. The Public was told in 2021 and 2022 that this extensive and anticipated costly project would be completed in phases. The submission of online work permit applications was at the top of the phases list. The Minister announced Phase 1 of the project was anticipated to launch in March 2022. Unless I have missed it, it has not happened.
It has now been three years since the work initially began and over a year since Phase 1 was due to be launched. Are we any closer to rolling out the online work permit applications project or any other related aspects of it?
How much money has been spent on work permit digitization and automation since the project started? Do we have anything today to show for the investment made for the pricey Microsoft Dynamics software purchased to realize work permit automation? If so, when should the public expect to see a return on that investment because three years into the project and work permit applications still cannot be submitted online.
Bermuda is considered one of the premier places to do business and yet we seemingly find it difficult to move beyond the dark ages. Earlier this year, the former President of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, Nathan Kowalski expressed his concern over the outsourcing of work by Bermudian businesses.
He hinted that the experience of employers who are unable to get workers on island efficiently may be a catalyst that leads to more companies in Bermuda outsourcing work to other countries. If that was to happen, Bermuda would be facing a much darker economic reality than we currently are experiencing.
The government acknowledges that we need upwards of an additional 8,000 people working and living on the island. As stated in the 2021 Speech from the Throne “in order for Bermuda to be successful in the global war for talent and investment, that we must be more competitive.”
As key participants in the talent war, how can we adequately compete if such an important aspect of our service delivery toolbox is ineffective and in large part because the tools used to help deliver the vital services and the related processes are outdated?
The Speech also noted that “[a]ny and all services that we provide to the global economy must be viewed from the lens of how we improve the delivery of our services so that Bermuda and Bermudians can benefit.”
To achieve this, we need to apply some urgency to getting work permit applications online. It would be a great start to improving our service delivery and might just give us hope of competing in the war for talent armed with efficiencies and similar technological weapons of digitization and automation that are used by other countries, leveling the playing field. It just might give us hope for increasing the working population to the magic numbers and within the five-year timeframe that the government envisions.