Wed | Sep 30, 2020

Holness trumpets world-class broadband for growth spurt

Published:Wednesday | September 16, 2020 | 12:15 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses parliamentarians shortly after they were sworn in at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses parliamentarians shortly after they were sworn in at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness laid out a list of “nation-building” investment strategies, including a world-class broadband system that he says will create the space needed for Jamaica to return to economic growth.

Holness was speaking for the first time in the new parliamentary term after his Jamaica Labour Party was issued with a new mandate after a September 3 election victory over the Dr Peter Phillips-led People’s National Party (PNP).

Parliament was convened at the Jamaica Conference Centre to facilitate all 63 members of parliament and senators for the opening of the new parliamentary term.

It was the second time since 2011, when work was undertaken to remove asbestos from the roofing at Gordon House, that a parliamentary sitting was housed elsewhere.

NO SURPRISE

Holness’ planned upgrade of the nation’s Internet broadband comes as no surprise. The two major service providers, Flow and Digicel, have come in for biting criticism for patchy service delivered to hundreds of thousands of customers, with dropped calls and unstable Internet.

The onset of COVID-19 cases on the island has necessitated virtual classes, which may remain the only option when schools reopen next month because of lingering concerns over coronavirus infections. Many rural households, in particular, have no access to the Internet, while poor Jamaicans are less likely to have tablets or laptops.

Holness said the new administration will be emphasising the development of human resources to fill out the foundation of new industries in Jamaica for coding and artificial intelligence for the expansion of knowledge services.

“We have the basis already with the BPOs, but we can do much more,” he said of the business process outsourcing industry which employs more than 40,000 people.

“We must provide the skills that we need and the Government will make decisive investments in that area. And to support that, the Government is also looking on ensuring that we have the physical highway to it, in the sense of the broadband support.”

The prime minister said that sourcing investments to carry out the massive upgrade should not be as difficult as may be perceived.

“We will put in place the backbone of a national broadband network that will provide the superhighway on which all the skills, artificial intelligence, coding, all of that can be done right here in Jamaica if we put in our world-class broadband network,” said Holness.

The list of areas targeted under the administration’s nation-building strategy also includes major investment in housing, the development of six STEM schools, reform of the National Insurance Scheme, and the ratification of the controversial National Identification System legislation.