- One of the most significant achievements in the telecommunications sector in 2013 was the reduction of telephone rates, by up to 60 per cent.
- The Government spent millions of dollars to provide computer access to more Jamaicans during 2013.
- Jamaica began tapping into the US$300 billion global animation industry as local animation company, GSW Animation Limited, secured an international contract.
The Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), which focused on its mandate for 2013 – ‘Laying the Foundation for Growth’ – pursued several initiatives in that thrust, under the guidance of the Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell.
REDUCTION OF TELEPHONE RATES
One of the most significant achievements in the telecommunications sector in 2013 was the reduction of telephone rates, by up to 60 per cent, consequent on the amendment of the Telecommunications Act.
The impact on domestic use and on the business sector was immediate, with customers and companies spending less to make calls, especially across networks.
The Ministry is now working on a project which will allow customers to have portability of telephone numbers, to eliminate the need to purchase more than one telephone from telecommunication providers.
COMPUTER ACCESS POINTS
The Government spent millions of dollars to provide computer access to more Jamaicans during 2013, facilitated through the launch of close to 80 Community Access Points (CAPs) islandwide.
This was made possible from funding through the Universal Service Fund (USF), which pledged early in the year to expand the ability of Jamaicans to become more computer literate and to bridge the digital divide.
PROVISION OF COMPUTERS TO SCHOOLS
To improve literacy and learning across the island’s schools, the Government committed resources, which will see the provision of approximately 25,000 tablet computers to some 38 shortlisted early childhood, primary, and secondary institutions under a pilot Tablet in Schools Programme, to be implemented through eLearning Jamaica Company Limited.
EXPANSION OF ICT SECTOR
The Government, through the Ministry, provided some US$20 million for the expansion of office space in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. The funding was made available through the Development Bank of Jamaica from the PetroCaribe Development Fund.
Factories Corporation of Jamaica has been requested to provide a further 60,000 square feet of additional space for the sector.
Jamaica began tapping into the US$300 billion global animation industry as local animation company, GSW Animation Limited, secured an international contract for the production of 52 episodes for a series that has already received global distribution.
Government also partnered with the World Bank and the Government of Canada to stage the second two-day ‘KingstOOn’ animation conference and film festival in June, and convened a high-level working group to aid in facilitating the growth and development of the industry. Several training seminars were also held across the island, spearheaded by the ‘I Believe Initiative (IBI)’.
REDUCING ENERGY COST
Government’s efforts to reduce the high cost of energy by at least 30 per cent by 2016 took a giant step forward with the launching of Net Billing and the Ministry granting close to 120 residential and commercial customers with licences in 2013, to supply excess energy to the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited (JPS) grid.
The new licencees will provide up to 100 kilowatts of energy to the JPS at a cost of approximately US$0.25 per kilowatt hour.
Government also introduced, in 2013, the Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel Fuel (ULSD). This is expected to have a significant impact on owners of vehicles with advanced emission control systems that are designed to use ULSD fuel.
Automobile importers and environmentalists have commended the Government for the move, as the diesel fuel improves mileage per gallon and the air quality of the environment.
An agreement was reached in late 2013 for the start of construction of a modern 360 Megawatt electricity generating plant, projected to commence in 2014.
When completed and commissioned, the increased generating capacity will significantly lower the cost of electricity produced in Jamaica, allowing the productive sector to be more competitive.
Energy conservation was also another area that gained significant traction in 2013, with the Government implementing solar film technology and cool-roofing solutions at several government buildings.
The objective is to retrofit the entire public sector with energy efficiency facilities, so that the Government, as stated in its National Energy Policy, will be a role model for how energy is used in Jamaica.
On December 11 a contract was signed by Minister Paulwell, in the sum of US$2.65 million, for four State entities to be fitted with modern and efficient air conditioning systems, as part of the Government’s drive to reduce the energy bill in the public sector.
The entities are: Jamaica Information Service (JIS); Kingston Public Hospital; Donald Sangster Building, which is the Tax Administration Jamaica complex on East Street, in Kingston; and the Montego Bay Revenue Service Centre.
Geddes Refrigeration Limited has been awarded the contract, and the work will include the design, supply and retrofitting of efficient air conditioning solutions.
The contract forms part of a US$20 million loan agreement for an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme, which the Government entered into with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2011.
ELECTRICITY FOR MORE RURAL COMMUNITIES
Over $20 million was spent by Government, through the Rural Electrification Programme (REP), to provide several rural communities with electricity, some for the first time. Portland, St. Thomas, Manchester, Eastern St. Andrew and St. Elizabeth were some of the parishes that benefitted.
The REP is to undergo a name change to Jamaica Energy Solutions Limited (JESL), and its mandate adjusted to incorporate greater use of Solar Energy solutions in the delivery of energy to residents in rural communities.
RARE EARTH ELEMENTS
A pilot plant was officially opened for the multi-million dollar rare earth elements extraction project, being spearheaded by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) and Japanese entity, Nippon Light Metals.
Rare earth oxides (extracted from red mud), are being traded at rates of up to US$3,500 per kilogram, compared to alumina, at US$330 per tonne. Rare earth elements are vital in the manufacture of smart phones, plasma screens, wind turbines, satellites, and numerous other high-tech products.
Under the PetroCaribe Development Fund’s Trade Compensation Mechanism, in December 2013, the Caribbean Cement Company shipped approximately 20,000 tonnes of a 100,000 tonne consignment of clinker to Venezuela. It is expected that this US$8.5 million deal will pave the way for other shipments of mineral products to Venezuela.
The Government continued to focus on developing the Limestone Sub-sector with the launch, in November 2013, of a ‘Limestone Market Study’ that had been requested by STEM and JAMPRO.
NEW DEVELOPMENT AT SRC
The Scientific Research Council (SRC) developed two waste water systems, utilising anaerobic technology, which is the process of treating waste-water without using oxygen.
These systems are in sync with the vision of the Government, as they do not pollute the environment, especially ground water, and allow for the construction of buildings in areas with high water tables.