Minister of State for Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, said the recent passage of amendments to the Telecommunications Act will ensure greater access to Information Communications Technology (ICT) by a wider cross section of the society.
He said tax collected from incoming calls will now go directly the Universal Access Fund (UAF) for its use in enabling more Jamaicans to access ICT and at a quicker pace. “So, the amendments will allow the UAF to collect its own money and spend its own money as opposed to it going into the Consolidated Fund,” Mr. Robinson said.
He was addressing a panel discussion on Thursday at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies under the theme: ‘Achieving Equality in ICTs for Women and Girls: Issues, Opportunities and Challenges’.
The money generated from incoming calls is used primarily to fund the E-Learning Project, being implemented by the UAF, which entails establishing an ICT platform in secondary schools, libraries and post offices.
There are plans to expand the project to include the provisions of loans to institutions engaged in facilitating ICT access; and widening the categories of beneficiaries to include the disabled, elderly, as well as pupils and students in basic and primary schools.
According to Mr. Robinson, the legislation will not only ensure the provision of technology but the requisite infrastructure as well. “What we have found is, for example, in many of the communities that serve as access points, the physical buildings are inadequate and are inappropriate for computer technology, so the amendment allows the Fund to invest in infrastructure in building out some of these community centres,” he informed.
An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act was passed in both Houses of Parliament in May 2012.
The legislation, among other things, grants the Office of Utilities Regulations (OUR) power to set interim rates for wholesale and retail services where there is a marked diversity in rates, but will see those rates being applied without a retroactive effect.
The updated terms of the Act pave the way for number portability, which will allow customers to move to any network, while retaining their original number. The important matter of infrastructure sharing is also addressed by empowering the OUR to set infrastructure sharing rules. This means that operators can be mandated to share facilities, such as cell sites towers, where the regulator considers that this is justified.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter