Speech

Madam Speaker, according to the World Bank (2020), the massive shock of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated containment measures have severely contracted the global economy – the worst since World War II.

Madam Speaker, industries have been disrupted, and businesses that require face-to-face interaction are struggling to keep afloat. The traditional way of doing commerce has proven to be a herculean task during this pandemic.

As I drive around, I have observed long lines at Tax Offices, banks, and other public and private institutions. Madam Speaker, this signals the urgent need for more services to be made available online, and our people sensitised on the importance of accessing them.

Madam Speaker, this Administration has always recognised that the transition to a digital society is a crucial prerequisite to the realisation of Jamaica’s growth and development ambitions. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of digital technologies globally, and our recovery from the pandemic is critically dependent on how quickly we reengineer and innovate. This applies to all areas of the public and private sectors – healthcare, education, manufacturing, financial services, to name a few.

As policymakers and citizens, we must fast track the legislation and infrastructure necessary to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There are two big hurdles that we need to overcome to become a digital society.

The first is what is referred to as the “digital divide”. The pandemic has forced schools and workplaces to close and people to practice social distancing. The internet has become our public square to meet and access critical information. However, approximately half of the world’s population is still not connected to the internet.

In Jamaica, the percentage of persons not connected has been estimated to be approximately 45%. With school, work, healthcare, commerce and religious worship going online, persons without access to a reliable internet connection may become marginalised and disconnected entirely from the world. We are committed, Madam Speaker, to building out broadband internet infrastructure so that every Jamaican has the opportunity to be connected.

The second key hurdle to becoming a digital society is Digital Identification, or “Digital ID,” for every citizen of Jamaica through which the citizen can be authenticated unambiguously through a digital channel. Madam Speaker, many Jamaicans lack any form of legally recognised identification. Many others have some type of legally recognised identification but have limited ability to use it in the digital world. A Digital ID will foster increased financial and economic inclusion for these persons.

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