JIS News

The national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategic action plan, which has been under rigorous revision over the past year, is to be unveiled within the next three weeks, says Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Kern Spencer.
This plan seeks to use information and communication technology to enhance Jamaica’s social and economic development and is geared at ensuring that the country continues to benefit from emerging technologies over the five year period, 2007-2012, and beyond.
The team of ICT specialists who are currently updating the plan is led by Dr. Hopeton Dunn, Director of the Telecommunications Policy and Management at the Mona School of Business and Dr. Evan Duggan, Professor of Management Information Systems at the Mona School of Business. The project is co-ordinated by the Central Information Technology Office (CITO), of the Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce.
Dr. Duggan explains to JIS News that although there was a previous ICT plan for the country, it needed revision.
“We did an elaborate assessment of the previous plan; first of all to identify what deficiencies existed. We found that the content was quite good in terms of things that were important for national development.
We have been informed by whatever happened in that previous plan, as well as our local consultations and an analysis of the global and other local contextual issues, to come up with strategies that we think would take us forward into the next five years,” he says.
Dr. Dunn tells JIS News that the first step in the development of the new plan was to conduct research among industry leaders and the public, as well as to consider the methods adopted by a range of other countries globally.
“Firstly, we have been conducting a range of data-gathering activities, to see if we can pull together what we call policy-relevant information that will help us to construct a plan for the next five years, starting next year and running into the year 2012. We have taken the approach of gathering data, both from local stakeholders and interest groups, as well as looking at the policy approaches taken by many other countries at an equivalent or more advanced stage than we are, in the process of developing their ICT strategic plan,” he informs.
Dr. Dunn notes that although the plan is still in the developmental stages, there are areas that are currently emerging as major emphases for the strategic use of ICT for national development. The first of these areas is education.
“ICT for national development must be founded on an educated population, and the sector offers great scope for the use of information technology applications, to develop the skills and capacities of young people and people who are in the educational system in all spheres of life,” he says.
Explaining further, Dr. Dunn says the second area that needs to be emphasised in the development of this new plan, is infrastructure development and universal access to computers.
“We are very clear that the build-up of the information infrastructure is also a critical area in which the plan should place emphasis. That is, we should develop as far as possible, what we call universal access, everybody being able to make contact with the network, and some ability to purchase the computer hardware, and to subscribe to the broadband services, at affordable costs,” he notes.
Dr. Dunn points out that presently, approximately 25 per cent of the population has access to a computer, with only five per cent having regular access to the Internet. It is hoped, he says, that after the five-year period under the ICT strategy, this figure will triple, so that 15-20 per cent of the population will have regular access to the Internet.
Apart from these two main areas of focus, Dr. Dunn says there will be several other focal points in the completed plan.
“In addition, we feel that other areas, such as e-government, e-commerce, research and innovation, culture content and creativity, that is part of building brand Jamaica, as well as preparing an appropriate legislative and policy framework, are other key areas that should get emphasis in the plan,” he tells JIS News.
Dr. Dunn notes that the improvements to e-government will make the provision of services more efficient, and allow the Ministries to conduct business in a speedy manner.
“When we speak about e-government, what we are trying to say is that the plan should assist the government in enabling all ministries to provide better service to the public, to enable ministries to interact among themselves better, and also to create, for example, better health services through e-health, using the technologies; and better security. We know that we have to address this question of cyber crimes. Tourism is an area very amendable to use by the information technology sector; agriculture, as well as labour,” he explains.
Moreover, it is hoped that when the plan is completed, all sectors in the country will have participated fully in its development. “The central tenet of the plan, as it emerges, is ensuring active citizen ownership, and participation, and engagement with this whole information technology planning. When the plan is finished, we would like all sectors to feel some connection and ownership to it.
While government is expected to lead and drive the process, it is expected that the private sector, the NGO sectors, communities, the academic community, for example, should all play a very important role, a leading role, in making the plan happen,” Dr. Dunn tells JIS News.
Meanwhile, stakeholders and members of the public are being invited to contribute written recommendations on the ICT plan. These may be delivered to CITO at the Ministry, or to the Telecommunications Policy and Management Programme at the Mona School of Business. Comments may also be emailed to tpm@uwimona.edu.jm, or info@cito.gov.jm, by Monday, November 27.