The Hon. Daryl Vaz is Jamaica’s Minister responsible for Information, Telecommunications & Special Projects. Minister Vaz entered the public sector in1986 as a young Kingston and St Andres Council (KSAC) Councillor. He has been serving as a Member of Parliament for the West Portland Constituency since 2007. The Minister is a well-known Jamaican business leader having served as an executive with Automotive Sales and Rentals; Daryl’s Auto Sales and Service, and as a Director of Leeward Investment Limited. Mr Vaz was the Managing Director of Shalimar Jamaica Limited, prior to entering politics.
Mr Vaz was the Founding President of the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association. He is also a former Director of the Jamaica Lottery Company.
Mr Daryl Vaz is a graduate of Campion College and the Miami Dade Community College.
Broadband promotes social and economic development, but requires a legislative and policy framework to foster competition among market players, reduce costs and guarantee quality, access and security. Jamaica is using public/private partnerships to build its ICT infrastructure and seeks to provide an efficient regulatory architecture that will promote competition and guide investments towards underserved areas of the country. Connectivity can provide the tools to transform Jamaica’s ‘livity’ (local parlance for enhanced quality of living) through new and improved products and services.
The current global challenges highlight the inter-connectivity and inter-dependence of Governments, private enterprises and the wider society. Public policy concerns in the developed world regarding unemployment, carbon emissions and public sector deficits are invariably linked to challenges in the developing world and include such issues as sustainable poverty reduction, climate change, rural development and reducing crime. Within this scenario, is the ‘bread and butter’ challenge for information whilst simultaneously preparing economies and whole societies to develop capacities, participate in the Information Society and reap the benefits of game-changing technological developments. Progress in ICTs holds unprecedented power to connect and transform individuals, businesses and societies. As Minister with oversight responsibilities for Information and Telecommunications and responsibility for Special Projects, harnessing ICTs to drive efficiency in the public sector, empower the people of Jamaica, facilitate growth and development of the economy and achieve a cohesive knowledge-driven society is my passion.
The global perspective informs policy formulation and provides a ready frame of reference while mapping our own journey. When we consider that as at December 2009, 1.04 billion persons globally had either wireless or wireline broadband subscriptions,1 we are able to appreciate that in the information age there is a structural change in how services and goods are demanded and provided globally. Broadband provides infrastructural support to a whole ecosystem for greater commercial activity and touches all the vital organs of a functional society. Consequently: “Countries communities, corporations and individuals that lack easy access to broadband may miss economic and social opportunities”2. Furthermore, we should consider that the vast majority of these broadband subscriptions are held by individuals living in developed countries or high-income areas of developing countries and, as such, exercise control over global buying and spending power. Thus expansion of broadband access to underserved and unserved communities and countries will expand avenues and opportunities for social and economic mobility.
The ecosystem - connecting the dots
Broadband access can support a local content and delivery ecosystem - once minimum transmission speeds are achieved the development of applications, local content and the delivery of services become possible.
Prior to 2007 the market for applications on mobile phones did not exist, now this market is likely to grow to US$40 billion per annum by 2014. With the development and expansion of third and fourth generation broadband networks, consumers are able to pay for goods and services, connect to essential services, receive news and exchange contact details from a single mobile device. The implication for businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, is that they can now develop global brands and sales forces without investing in expensive brick and mortar establishments. For Governments, these applications create, inter alia, new portals for information sharing with populations, delivery of services and efficient tax collection.
Yet whilst broadband enables business development and is a key tool in information sharing, it requires a sound legislative and policy framework to ensure and promote:
• competition among market players so as to ensure minimum connection charges and highest data transfer qualities to consumers;
• universal service or last mile access so that each constituent can benefit from the offerings of the network; and,
• online security
The Jamaican experience
The Government of Jamaica has long recognized the transformative effect of wide scale adoption of ICTs as part of daily activities. However, having achieved universal access to telephony, Jamaica has moved beyond the issues of tele-connectivity and tele-density towards the more mature concerns of upgrading existing networks, expanding access to broadband and providing an adequate framework for the development and integration of applications into business processes and social activities.
The model adopted by the Government of Jamaica to facilitate the delivery of high capacity networks throughout the island is one of partnership with the private sector. Within this partnership the Government seeks to provide an efficient regulatory architecture that will promote competition and guide investments towards underserved areas of the country. The policy has met economic success in the first instance, as evidenced by the performance of Foreign Direct Inflows (FDI) into the sector between 2001 and 2008. Approximately US$80.9 million per annum or 12 per cent of total FDI flows went to ICT-related infrastructure. More importantly, however, a sophisticated system of broadband infrastructure is provided by the island’s three major telecommunications networks, which now blanket the country with third and fourth generation network coverage and packages which target all income brackets. In addition, 60 per cent of broadband coverage has been achieved without Government intervention and submarine cable is also being laid to create sufficient diversity and reliability to attract large users of ICT. This is in keeping with the country’s vision to be the hub of the Caribbean for ICT infrastructure as well as ensuring continuous connectivity to the global economy.
These developments bring us closer to achieving universal access and it is our expectation that local talent once distanced from the ICT platform (which is at once a cheaper means of production, promotion and interaction) will account, for inter alia, exponential growth in our creative industries; expansion in our agricultural and tourism sectors; increased innovation; new markets and the creation of a knowledge-based society.
Already, the applications on high data capacity networks are challenging conventional local business practices. In the area of marketing, as of August 29, 2010, 363,380 people, approximately 14 per cent of the Jamaican population, had a Facebook profile. In response, many Jamaican businesses have created fan pages advertising services and goods for sale. The Jamaican banking sector leads the Caribbean region in the deployment of mobile banking services allowing customers to have round-the-clock connection to banking and financial information worldwide. Government ministries, agencies and departments have also begun to use the social networking tool as a valuable part of their information exchange and as a strategy for promoting social cohesion.
Connecting Government and connected people - securing the future
The Government is committed to the “principle of joined up Government” and, through work led by the Public Sector Transformation Unit, a Govnet is being established. We expect that the Govnet will:
• drive the public sector modernization process;
• bring the citizenry closer to the decision-making table;
• forge new connections within and between ministries, departments and agencies and the public that they serve;
• deliver services in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner.
Further, the regulatory environment is being overhauled to minimize administrative requirements to promote increased entry of service providers and allow for greater consumer choice across the island. Focus is also placed on encouraging co-location; continued efficient and effective management of the spectrum; and more rapid deployment of broadband networks to remote areas of the country.
The Government is also committed to facilitating the provision of Universal Access and accepts that the concept of universal service requires attention beyond physical access to inclusive and enabling elements such as information literacy and financing for the creation and use of content and applications.
Our policy and legislative framework emphasises connecting schools, post offices and libraries to improve access and drive demand for ICTs. This should galvanise communities to explore new areas, improve their productivity, develop and exploit expertise and, as well, build upon competitive advantages within groups and sectors. Concomitant with this thrust, in an effort to build confidence in online systems, Jamaica has passed E-Transactions and Cybercrimes legislation. Jamaica will soon introduce its Data Protection Act and amend the existing Copyright Act to bring it fully in line with technological advances in the realm of copyright. These initiatives are buttressed by our work with the International Telecommunications Union to strengthen our capacity to address cyber threats. Equally, efforts are underway to modernize the provisions of the patent law.
ICTs are a general-purpose solution for all sectors of the economy and with increased connectivity, sustained growth will occur. Achieving increased global competitiveness is paramount in the framework for establishing Jamaica as the regional ICT hub in the Caribbean. We envision ICT as the common thread in charting a progressive path for the country that will enhance successes already achieved. We have already seen tremendous appetite for the technology and have demonstrated capacity in innovation. The latest demonstration was the success of Jamaica’s Xormis team at the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition, where they took the top award in the Interoperability category. This achievement energized the academic and software development communities throughout Jamaica.
The Government continues to work towards the national vision of making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. A technologically enabled society will contribute to making Jamaica’s economy prosperous, secure, cohesive and just; it will also improve Jamaica’s adaptability to climate change and, as well, increase access to world class education and training thereby empowering Jamaicans to achieve their potential. Connectedness and connectivity provides the tools every individual and every community needs to express their creativity and transform Jamaica’s ‘livity’ (local parlance for enhanced standard and quality of living) through new and improved products and services.