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Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Hon. Phillip Paulwell has said that the Government was moving to increase public access to reasonably-priced computers.
The Minister, who was piloting the Electronic Transactions Bill in the House of Representatives yesterday (Nov.14), acknowledged that the price of computers had put the technology out of the reach of ordinary Jamaicans, but “there is a plan to enable Jamaicans to have access to reasonably-priced computers”.
“We are expecting shortly, to see Jamaicans having easier, less expensive access to personal computers, laptops, and similar devices to enable them to be able to have full and ubiquitous access to all of this infrastructure that we have put in place,” he told the House.
The move, Minister Paulwell said, was in addition to initiatives already in place to establish access points in communities, including post offices, to enable the public to do business directly with the government and other persons by way of the internet.
According to Mr. Paulwell, increasing access to computers would enable the population to fully utilize e-commerce. “This is where we have the real challenge as you cannot log on without some means. I am very pleased that we have seen some positives recently as a result of the removal of taxation on computers in Jamaica. We now have no taxation on computers coming into Jamaica and already, we are seeing the take up of this,” he noted.
The Electronic Transactions Bill, which was passed unopposed in the House, sets out the legal framework for electronic transactions and connected matters. Minister Paulwell said the legislation would “enable us to deal with the new world of doing business.via the Internet”.
“This Bill sets the framework and establishes the new system of doing business that will give people confidence to transact business electronically.
It sets up the infrastructure to enable verification and to authenticate businesses that are engaged in electronic transactions,” he further informed.The legislation, he pointed out, would address the problem of persons being asked to pay fees to bill payment agencies, when paying their utility bills.
“The Electronic Transactions Bill is probably the answer to some of the difficulties consumers face in settling their bills, because this (Bill) will enable consumers to have direct access to the companies for which bills they are seeking to pay,” he stated.
The Minister, however, warned that persons must be careful when using the Internet to conduct business “because a credit card has a number and we are seeing already persons, who have been able to violate privacy issues and commit fraud so you have to be careful”. He indicated that companion legislation, relating to criminal activities via the Internet, would be introduced “very shortly”.
Member of Parliament for West Central St. James, Clive Mullings, in supporting the Bill, noted that, “the legislation that is being put forward is one that is critical because the nature of transactions in this world that is now driven by technology. makes it important that we keep up and keep abreast of what is happening with the ease of transactions”.
“Business has changed considerably in terms of how you conduct business and the ability of individuals to go online and deal with transactions, and . I believe that as time passes, more and more Jamaicans will in fact be able to conduct their business online and have the appropriate safeguards in that regard,” he added.