How Barbados Expanded Its Digital Service Offerings to Increase Community Engagement

In response to a 2018 mandate designed to increase government efficiency, Barbados uncovered new and innovative ways to engage the community with online services.
Posted by Marcy Swisher

As Barbados continues to find new ways to leverage digital technology to improve government services and increase community engagement, we look at how a solution to bring a handful of paper forms online has grown to support upwards of 600 forms and application processes. Here, Haseley Straughn, Digital Development Policy Coordinator for the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology, shares how his team has put GovOS Studio to use.

GovOS Solution: Application Studio 

Population: ~287,300

Launched: March 2019

What was the initial need that kickstarted this project for your team? 

Digital transformation was a major driver in getting this project off the ground. Following a government changeover in 2018, a mandate was issued to make government here more efficient and increase the number of online services we offer. Since most of our processes start with an application form, we digitized a lot of our paper forms and processes. 

We liked GovOS Studio because it could be used beyond just digitalizing our forms; it was actually a full-fledged solution that would allow us to take paper forms online and use a number of other powerful tools within the software to streamline our processes. There are only four of us here who design and develop the forms so we’ve really been able to get a lot done with just a small team! 

What is one of the first forms you brought online and how has it contributed to overall citizen engagement? 

One of the first citizen-facing forms we brought online was the National Honours form where individuals nominate fellow citizens for excellence in sports, science, the arts, culture, and civic or other areas. Before digitalizing this form, citizens had to submit paper applications by mail to the Cabinet Office. It was a very tedious process as they would have to fill out the form by hand then make time in their schedule to submit it.

With GovOS Studio, we were able to streamline the process and make it much easier and more convenient for citizens. The form can be filled out online from anywhere, so we receive a lot of nominations from local citizens and overseas. The new process has made it much easier to share the application with others and request they send in their submissions. One of the challenges for us had been a signature requirement but the eSignature feature built into Studio is legally recognized so that helped a lot! 

How has the pandemic impacted your mission to bring more services online? 

There’s definitely been a big push to bring more forms online, especially internal forms for ministries, departments or agencies. We’ve noticed a huge increase in demand to work from home, so we’ve developed multiple forms (travel, leave application forms, etc.) to enable employees to work from home faster and easier. 

A form we’re quite proud of is the Application for Financial Assistance for Small or Micro Business Owners. The COVID-19 lockdown had a big impact on the small business sector so our government decided to provide financial support to small shops and businesses. We made contact with the ministry and were able to take the form from a very simple email to a full-fledged solution in a matter of 48 hours. It’s a very popular form that uses the full range of features in Studio—triggers, stages, tags, workflows, eSignatures, etc. We’ve already received more than 8,700 submissions. 

Are there any other forms you’ve created that have had a positive impact on community engagement? 

Like many countries, we faced some major economic issues in 2020. It looked like there could be mandatory job and/or wage cuts for public workers. While negotiating with our public sector union, the government proposed offering workers the option to receive part of their salary in the form of bonds, with a five percent interest rate and no tax withheld on their earnings. The response was very positive and in June 2020, we launched the Barbados Optional Savings Scheme (BOSS) Public Worker Option Form. This is now our #1 form with more than 12,250 submissions! 

What’s next for your team? 

The next area of focus for us is payment integration. We’re also focusing a lot on cybersecurity, and how we can add additional security, like two-factor authentication, to some of our systems. Our team started using Microsoft SharePoint so we’re also looking to integrate some of these application forms and get them organized into libraries. 

By making forms more accessible to citizens and staff, we’ve received hundreds of additional submissions to many of our most popular forms. The initial feedback for bringing services online in 2019 was very positive and these forms continue to be a success in 2021. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing what 2022 brings and how we can continue to advance technology in government.