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Minister of Industry, Commerce, Science and Technology (with Energy), Phillip Paulwell, emphasized the need for Jamaica and the rest of the region to continue on a path of progress in information communication technology (ICT development.
The Minister, who was speaking at the May 17 opening ceremony of the World Telecommunication Day Symposium at the Hilton Kingston, noting that with the developments taking place across the globe, “it is imperative that we take stock of where we are, and where we need to be in terms of ICT development.”
He stated that ICT offered tremendous possibilities for increasing productivity, transforming economic relationships and processes in the private and public sectors. He added that “with the spread of broadband in Jamaica and regionally, significant opportunities now exist in areas such as e-commerce, e-education, and teleworking.”
Citing the 2006 World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report 2006, he said that since the end of 2004, the telecommunication industry has experienced continuous growth, as well as rapid progress in policy and technology development, resulting in an increasingly competitive and networked world.
“International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics,” he added, “show that over the last 10 years, the digital divide between the developing and the developed countries has been narrowing in terms of fixed telephone lines, mobile subscribers and Internet users.”
Locally, he said, there has been tremendous growth in cellular subscription since the liberalization process started in 2000, moving from about 70,000 subscribers to over two million at present. “Mobile penetration in Jamaica exceeds that of the rest of the Caribbean and indeed the rest of the western hemisphere,” Minister Paulwell noted.
In terms of E-readiness, the Minister informed that Jamaica has made tremendous progress and was now “behind the United States, Canada, Brazil and Chile in terms of our E-readiness for this region”, and was “looking forward to overtaking them as the first developing country to do so in the region.”
Speaking of Internet use in Jamaica, Minister Paulwell stated that, “Internet penetration rates in Jamaica have remained behind those found in more dynamic markets, especially Asia, presenting a serious obstacle to the realization of the government’s objectives to develop a strong and effective ICT sector.”
He said that the mission now, “is to move away from the focus on voice and instead to try in greater earnest to ensure that we have the infrastructure for supporting a knowledge-based society.”
According to the Minister, “one of the challenges that we have put to the private sector in Jamaica and throughout the region, is to see the computer as you now see the cell phone instrument,” proposing that Internet providers look towards expanding the market from a 10 per cent Internet access use to over 40 per cent. He noted that this could be done through the similar creative strategies used in the deployment of cellular services throughout the country and the region.
The Minister concluded that the symposium would offer an opportunity to explore the use of ICT in fostering greater levels of cooperation throughout the region.
The three-day symposium, which is being hosted by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) in association with Mona School of Business, concludes today (May 19).
Held under the theme: ‘ICTs: Facilitating Caribbean Integration’, the seminar was organised to mark World Telecommunication Day, which was observed on May 17.
The CTU inaugurated the celebration of World Telecommunication Day in the Caribbean in 2005 when its first annual symposium was held in Trinidad and Tobago.
The main objective of the symposium is to raise the profile of information and telecommunication development as a strategy for regional integration and development.