Stern Says Regional Govts Have Critical Role in ICT Growth

Governments in the region have a critical role to play in providing an appropriate environment for the development and growth of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, says Minster of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Michael Stern.
“This is particularly important at this time when Governments throughout the Caribbean are increasingly recognising the significant benefits of broadband to our business communities, and economies,” Mr. Stern said.
He also pointed out that these benefits include the ability to expand economic opportunities and innovation, increase trade and productivity, reduce business costs, create jobs and encourage foreign investments.
The Minister was speaking Wednesday (November 25) at the seventh Caribbean Internet Forum, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.
He said that, in the case of Jamaica, ICT has to be seen as a sector in its own right and, secondly, as an enabler of all other sectors, including the economic, social, environmental and governance sectors.
He also noted that Jamaica’s Vision 2030 includes an ICT Sector Plan which is based on eight dimensions employed in the National ICT Strategy: e-inclusion; education and training; network readiness and infrastructure development; e-Business and Industry Structure; e-Government; cultural content and creativity; research and innovation; and policy and legal framework.
“The vision is for Jamaica to utilise ICT to attain developed country status by 2030. This will involve growth of the sector and the application of ICT in all sectors and at all levels, to achieve rapid and sustained development,” he explained.
“Within the Caribbean, therefore, we have a common goal in using ICTs to create economic opportunities; contribute to poverty eradication; and provide basic services such as health care and education at lower cost and with greater coverage, as well as to bridge the digital code,” he added.
He said that ICT is critical to the growth of small businesses, in terms of reducing transaction costs, and for geographic expansion of the market and attracting new customers. However, they face barriers in terms of the use of the technology and access.
“Our role as leaders, therefore, is to create an enabling environment which addresses, in a holistic manner, the various policy, legal, market and social factors that interact, both at the domestic and global levels to create fertile conditions for ICT-led growth,” the Minister stated.
On the telecommunications sector’s investment outlook, Mr. Stern predicted considerably more capital expenditure next year, as players expand their infrastructure and invest in broadband undersea fibre links to Jamaica.
World Bank Special Representative to Jamaica, Dr. Badrul Haque, said the Bank is working on a proposal to develop a forum-wide Caribbean regional communications infrastructure programme, strongly anchored to CARICOM’s ICT agenda.
“The objectives are to increase the availability of broadband services through leveraging private sector investment in submarine cable, national broadband infrastructure, supporting growth of local information technology industry and promoting e-government and e-society,” Dr. Badrul said.
The specific components will be tailored to each country, on the basic menu of options in the broad area of connectivity, information technology industry development and regional e-services, he said.
The Caribbean Internet Forum is a regional event for exploring strategies to reduce existing barriers to the effective use of ICTs, in facilitating social and economic development in the Caribbean.

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