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Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Fayval Williams, has reiterated the Government’s commitment to upgrade and strengthen the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.

“As a Ministry, we are taking the bold steps to strengthen our ICT infrastructure to ensure that Jamaica enters the digital future with modern legislation and that all our citizens will have access to the Internet and information and communications technology,” she said.

Addressing the digital opening ceremony for the launch of the Caribbean Hackathon competition, on May 28, Mrs. Williams said the Data Protection legislation was recently passed in the House of Representatives to broaden the rights of citizens in a significantly transformed technological landscape.

“We recognise that the protection of data is integral in an increasingly connected world, which makes this legislation not just crucial for our citizens but also businesses. As you create new and innovative customer service experiences and technological opportunities for our young people, the data generated must be protected, and under this regime, we all can be assured of some degree of protection,” she said.

The Minister noted that the National Public Key Infrastructure Project, which will propel Jamaica towards becoming a truly digital society, will be rolled out soon.

Mrs. Williams said the project will enable trusted electronic identities for people, services and things, and make it possible to implement strong authentication, data encryption and digital signatures, based on a certifying authority.

She added that implementation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“We are increasing access to Public Services with mygovjm app that will improve citizens’ access to their government, e-participation, e-decision-making and e-access,” she said.

Mrs. Williams pointed out that COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the need to make access to the Internet a right for every citizen, adding that “we are committed to making this a reality for all Jamaicans”.

She said science and technology is crucial in the fight against COVID-19 and the social issues plaguing society.

“Science, technology and innovation must become major lynchpins to support our development and every sector of this country,” the Minister emphasised.

“While we have experienced some challenges, I want Jamaica to know that the COVID setback is not a step back. Where there are challenges, we see opportunities, where there is lack, we see plenty and where there are impossibilities, we see tremendous possibilities,” she added.

Meanwhile, she reminded the participants that they are among the brightest minds that will lead Jamaica and the Caribbean into the digital future. “The time is calling for the innovators to take their place. I urge you to answer the call,” the Minister added.

She said the technological landscape is teeming with tremendous career possibilities, noting that the World Economic Forum estimates that in the next 10 years, nine out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.

Mrs. Williams argued that with the Fourth Industrial Revolution already taking shape and automation, machine learning and innovation being the order of the day, skills in software, app and web development, cybersecurity and many technology-related fields will be in great demand.

“Never stop learning, never stop improving, never stop believing in yourselves, because anything is possible. It is your ideas, your creativity and your solutions that will build Jamaica’s resilience and create opportunities for this country to play its part in the advancement of the whole human race,” she said.

The Minister commended the organisers of the initiative, noting that it will assist in building the innovative capacity of the participants.

“I look forward to seeing the development of these solutions at the national level as we work together to create a prosperous Jamaica.

Think global in what you do. We want ideas and products that have the potential to be revenue generating. Don’t shy away from that thought. That is how millionaires and billionaires are born – they put their energies in products and services that other people find useful enough to pay for,” she said.

The Caribbean Hackathon, dubbed Hack-Celebrate, is being organised by the National Commercial Bank and Innovate 10X and will engage persons to create computer-based solutions to various issues, problems and needs.

The goal of the hackathon is to identify and develop solutions that can have a positive impact and ease the COVID-19-related burdens for businesses and individuals. The winning team will walk away with a cash prize of $500,000.

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