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If Jamaica is to get in line with modern economies, the country, in particular its youth must endeavour to seek opportunities online.

This is the central theme of the message of World Bank country representative to Jamaica, Giorgio Valentini, for Workers' Week 2012, which comes to an end on May 26.

According to Mr. Valentini, Jamaica’s young men and women must act as catalysts and the country must move with urgency, to steer its youth toward online commercial innovation, if it is serious about fast-tracking national development.

The World Bank Executive observed that notwithstanding its “small size and ongoing struggles to achieve sustainable economic growth,” Jamaica enjoys comparative advantages in the competitive global economy. Among these are the country’s proximity to the richest market in the world, its mastery of the English Language, which is “the language of education and commerce”; and a fairly well-trained work force.  

He opined that perhaps the biggest promise yet to be fulfilled is the relatively large youth population which is, in many ways “wired to the rest of the world in terms of tastes, interests, behaviour and natural abilities.”

“Yet, what is one of the island’s greatest assets, its vibrant youth, can yet become its Achilles heel if the noose of disproportionate disengagement among young Jamaicans is not only arrested, but reversed with dispatch. Youth unemployment rate in 2009 stood at 27.3 per cent, more than twice the overall rate of 10.6 per cent, with young women faring even worse,” he argued.

He observed that young people are not being left behind simply because they are lazy or inherently incompetent or subversive; “in many ways we believe that the young are outpacing the state apparatus and the modus operandi of the private sector.  As is always the case, during times of change and times of chaos, the answer is innovation. Only new approaches will spawn successes given the same people and resources.”

 “The Jamaican youth can play a critical role in shaping the innovation system for the country, while also providing their services to the modernisation of the government and to local and global companies,” he said.

He maintained that in order to achieve this objective, a multinational, multi-sectoral approach over a sustained period is required.

“This is why the World Bank is so happy to support the request of the Ministry of Youth and Culture as it builds a coalition of private/public sector and civil society partners. Digital Jam 2.0 is a brainchild of these consultations. It is a project that has been designed to create a turning point in Jamaica’s development trajectory by harnessing the substantial youth potential as a central part of the engine of growth through greater levels of employment and entrepreneurship,” Mr. Valentini said.

The World Bank Country Representative reiterated that Digital Jam 2.0 is expected to support the local economy by:

– Creating a place for national and international companies to establish partnerships.

– Leveraging resources and partnerships to establish a set of pilot projects that can employ at least 1,000 to 2,000 youth using robust web-based platforms.

– Developing and improving world class ICT quality of skills for unemployed/underemployed youth.

– Linking the youth employment via innovative ICT solutions to broader initiatives, such as the Caribbean Growth Forum and the Compete Caribbean programme, adding a regional dimension.

He stated that further support of the initiative will be forthcoming in upcoming weeks through details of the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF), a regional multi-donor initiative, managed by the World Bank.

“The CGF will aim to foster growth and development in the region through innovation, competitiveness, trade and ICT initiatives. The two projects are therefore inextricably linked, with a springboard in the home of the largest English-speaking population in CARICOM,” he said.

“Any project or programme designed to articulate workable policy must be about the quality of life of the people they portend to serve. We expect that the impact of DigitalJam 2.0will be even broader and more profound in the long term,” Mr. Valentini added.

He argued that with such a “significant percentage of the Jamaican society pulled ‘online’ as the method of choice for enterprise and wealth creation, one can expect that this will act as a catalyst towards the development of a “knowledge society,” prodding Jamaica in the right direction towards “developed country status."

Mr. Valentini emphasised that the expected transformative effect of this movement will also establish Jamaica as an important player in the global virtual economy through the creation and promotion of ‘Brand Jamaica’.

“It should also bring to the forefront current key constraints for the realisation of employment opportunities in the virtual global economy and act as a living example of the need to adjust the legislative framework to facilitate elements, such as mobile banking and the delivery of mobile financial services, which are crucial to ensure payments for online services, allowing the local digital economy to thrive,” he maintained.


By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter

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