Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, is pushing for improvement in digital literacy of Jamaicans.
The Minister defined digital literacy as “the capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it."
Speaking at the launch of the book, ‘Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles’, by Dr. Marcia Forbes, on August 23, at Bookophilia, in St. Andrew, Mr. Paulwell emphasised that in the 21st Century, it is going to be just as important to be literate with technology as it is to be able to read.
"Not only is it already difficult to find a job without basic computer and technological skills, but in the next few years, it is going to be hard to learn without them as well,” he added.
The Minister pointed out that networking through social media is almost as important as sending out a resume, and that “being illiterate in new technologies isn’t just going to hold you back in school, it will hold you back in life."
Mr. Paulwell reported that as of June 2012, there were some 650,000 Jamaicans on Facebook and over 100,000 on Twitter, with over 70 per cent of Jamaicans in 2011 reporting that they used the Internet mostly to access social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
"What those numbers reveal is that the use of ICTs is increasing, and that Jamaicans are integrating this phase of digital communication into their everyday lives. Those numbers prove that our policies have expanded access to technology, and I look forward to research that shows the impact of the Telecommunications Act I piloted through Parliament earlier this year,” the Minister said.
Mr. Paulwell pledged his commitment towards pursuing policies that will expand access and develop the telecoms infrastructure, adding that the government will soon auction spectrum on the 700 MHz frequency, with a bonus being the award of a fibre-optic licence to the winner of the bid.
The Minister expressed disappointment that Jamaicans are still not maximising the use of the technology for business, commerce and information.
“The Global Information Technology Report of 2010-2011 showed a decline in Internet usage for productive enterprise in Jamaica. That ranking places us among the top 10 worst countries as it relates to access and use of the Internet for business transactions. We can and must do better,” he said.
The Minister congratulated Dr. Marcia Forbes on the publication of the book, calling her a pioneer. He pointed out that through research, the author has “started the conversation about social media, and has given insight into how we must adapt if we are to engage our young people and to participate in the global digital society."
For her part, Dr. Forbes explained that the research for ‘Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles’ was conducted in Jamaica, Trinidad, Dominica and the United States. She described writing the book as “a labour of love” and hinted that a second volume might be in the making, pending the availability of funds.
“I’m really happy the book is out and especially when I hear from its readers and the wonderful feedback they have been giving me regarding its usefulness,” she said.
The book uses humorous stories to support and explain findings from primary research on youth engagement with mobile phones and the internet.
Dr. Forbes also ‘immersed herself in life online’ to bring a realistic account of how social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter and mobile phones, are impacting people’s way of life and the way they communicate. It has received positive reviews from a wide cross-section of society.