Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Grading Jamaica’s Information and Communication Technology Sector

Published:Monday | November 9, 2015 | 11:00 AM
Wayne Marsh
Trevor Forrest
Wayde Marr
Hopeton Dunn
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Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have changed the face of the world. ICTs have impacted how we do business, how we deliver social goods, and even how we interface with each other. Leading academics, global organisations and industry analysts agree that there is a direct correlation between the use of ICTs and positive macroeconomic growth. The Vision 2030 ICT sector plan notes that ICTs serve as an enabler of all other sectors, including economic, social, environmental, and governance sectors, but is this concept of ICT for development (ICT4D) being maximised in Jamaica? The Gleaner reached out to industry players to hear what they had to say as they sat down to grade Jamaica's ICT sector.

Jamaica ICT Sector Scorecard

Industry Player Rating

Trevor Forrest B-

Dean Smith C

Lisa Facey-Shaw D

Hopeton Dunn B

Wayne Marsh C

Wayde Marr C

SWOT Analysis of Jamaica's ICT Sector

Trevor Forrest

CEO,

876 Solutions,

VP Software Developers

Jamaica Information Technology & Services Alliance (JITSA)

Strength - A wealth of talent with relatively unfettered access to the global marketplace via the Internet

Weakness - Our weaknesses are many: We have an ICT governance problem in both public and private sector; there is very little ICT industry cohesion (but this may be changing with the formation of entities like JITSA and the rebirth of Jamaica Computer Society); as a country, we are not driven to find our niche as a technology producer, [and], as such, we import a lot of solutions and expertise that we already have or can grow at home and we do not seriously view ICT as the major enabler of economic growth.

Opportunities - We have a chance to create the focus, find our niche and use the talent to solve some of the nation's most critical problems by becoming more cohesive as an industry. Creation of more local partnerships and greater investment in initiatives that produce local products with global impact (exportable tech products) is needed.

Threats - Standing still and being overtaken by our regional neighbours because we fail to foster and grow an environment of tech innovation through greater private-sector support and public-sector legislative prowess.

Dean Smith

Immediate past president

Jamaica Computer Society

Strength: Creative people operating in a free-market depressed economy in the western hemisphere.

Weaknesses: Fragmentation of focus, generally brought about by pursuing individual interests without accountability.

Opportunities: Participation in ITO, KPO, system architecture and software engineering services market worth over $2 trillion worldwide.

Threats: Professional disservice because of lack of collaboration and being under-equipped professionally.

Lisa Facey-Shaw

Director ICT Division

School of Computing & Information Technology (SCIT)

University of Technology

Strength: Strengths include government recognition of role ICT can play in creating economic value, availability of ICT training, youth gravitation towards technology and availability of telecommunications infrastructure.

Weakness: Weaknesses include underdeveloped e-government services, concentration on low-end ICT services, a lack of innovation education and a gap in ICT skills in the workforce.

Opportunities: Opportunities exist for more industry-academic-government partnership on research and innovation, stimulating sustainable technology entrepreneurship and providing resources for key government employees to undertake ICT training.

Threats: Threats include little movement in international IT rankings in comparison to some Caribbean countries, a low capacity to innovate at levels required to make a significant impact and cyber-security and privacy-related challenges.

Professor Hopeton Dunn

Director

Mona ICT Policy Centre

Mona School of Business and Management

Strengths: Modern telecommunications network systems, including widespread mobile -phone penetration and, to a lesser extent, availability of Internet access.

Weaknesses: High cost of Internet access and expensive mobile-data roaming.

Opportunities: A youthful, tech-savvy population and an emerging set of ICT-intensive businesses that can help drive growth.

Threats: A 20th-century legislative and policy framework restricting 21st-century innovations.

Wayne Marsh

Internet Marketing Consultant

Strength: Jamaica's advantage is in its time zone and language.

Weakness: Jamaica's main weakness is the lack of skilled personnel for non-call centre-based ICT outsourced projects

Opportunities: Jamaica's opportunity lies in becoming an outsourcing destination not just for call-centre jobs, but other higher level jobs, in particular, a software development outsourcing centre.

Threats: Jamaica's main threat lies in losing its talent pool because of lack of opportunities locally, as well as countries with similar strengths grabbing the ICT high-level outsourcing opportunities before we do.

Dr Wayde Marr

President

Vector Technology Institute

Strength: There is a growing realisation ... that we are in a new era - the age of disruption; and that for the survival of Jamaica, will require at every level, a unified vision and coordinated approach to ICT integration and development.

Weaknesses: The lack of access to affordable education and specialist training; outdated curricula at the primary and secondary levels.

Opportunities: Leadership at all levels must inform and educate themselves to the fact that ICT has elevated itself as the most critical factor that drives competitiveness, and that the ICT strategy and the business strategy of any organisation can no longer be separated or treated in isolation.

Threats: The severity of the brain drain has negatively impacted our attempts at retaining talent; and the rapid pace of technology development coupled with our relatively slow pace of adoption (compared to our business partners), has fuelled a widening gap between ourselves and our business partners. With time, and without significant investment in the sector, the gap will continue to widen!