We must become producers of technology - Wheatley
While the Government has listed ICT as a key component of its Vision 2030 economic development plan, Dr Andrew Wheatley, the opposition spokesperson on ICT, digital society development, science and the environment, believes the administration is yet to grasp the potential impact of the industry globally.
"Some of the major problems in the ICT sector are borne out in the country's rankings in almost all major global ICT reports showing a constant decline," said Wheatley in an interview with The Gleaner. In fact, World Economic Forum and United Nations reports all show lacklustre performances in Jamaica's ICT sector. This comes at a time when our regional counterparts are advancing in the industry.
"It is clear that we are not moving quickly enough to create an environment in which ICT can show its true potential as a growth enabler," continued Wheatley. "Without the injection of ICT into every facet of how government and business function, real economic growth will not be realised. Additionally, it is important that Jamaica matures from being a mere consumer of technology to being a producer of technology," he added.
Wheatley said Opposition Leader Andrew Holness wants to see a reform of the ICT sector, as based on his own vision for the sector, it requires stable oversight and regulatory environment.
The priority must be to propel the 'ultimate reform' of the ICT sector in Jamaica, said Wheatley, "A stable oversight and regulatory environment that supports investment ... oversight and monitoring of investment resources in the ICT industry."
In his recent contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament, the JLP point man on ICT called on the Government to introduce a range of strategies to put the sector on firm footing. The strategies suggested included the following:
Create a focused and driven ICT strategy.
Accelerate the tabling and promulgation of the ICT act and data protection act.
Review and amend the Electronic Transaction Act as needed.
Finalise the creation of the single ICT regulator.
Complete recruitment of the Government's chief information officer.
Increase use of ICT in public-sector transformation.
Three months ago, while speaking at The Mico University College Alumni Association's 30th Annual Glen Owen Lecture Series, Julian Robinson, state minister for science, technology, energy and mining (STEM), said that the Start Up Jamaica programme would, among other things, help to move Jamaicans from being primarily consumers of technology to becoming producers of technology. He also said the programme would help to position the country as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship within the Caribbean. The Start Up Jamaica programme seeks to attract and support young entrepreneurs and innovators who are utilising ICT to create their businesses and develop their product.
According to a document, prepared by the ICT Task Force in 2007, The Vision 2030 National Development Plan seeks to build on the existing policy and development framework for the sector to ensure compatibility and continuity of the long-term planning for the sector. In particular, the Vision 2030 Jamaica ICT Sector Plan is based on the eight dimensions employed by the National ICT Strategy, which includes:
2. Education and training
3. Network readiness and infrastructure development
4. e-business and industry structure
6. Cultural content and creativity
7. Research and innovation
8. Policy and legal framework
The SWOT analysis and the strategic framework (with goals, objectives and strategies) are also structured along these eight dimensions.