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JLP logs on to ICT - Party promises 5,000 new jobs in the short term

Published:Saturday | February 20, 2016 | 2:06 PMRyon Jones
Wheatley

Party promises 5,000 new jobs in the short term

The Jamaica Labour Party is promising major changes in the local information and communications technology (ICT) sector within the first six months to a year if it is elected to form the next government.

Dr Andrew Wheatley, JLP spokesman on science, ICT and digital society development, said a 10-point plan for the development of the ICT sector, which the party released last week will facilitate significant investments, generate economic growth, and create jobs.

According to Wheatley, most of what his party intends to do does not require much money and will not put a strain on the country's purse or negatively impact the International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal.

"There are no fiscal requirements of such that will impede the implementation or even affect the current IMF plan. In fact, it should boost economic growth," Wheatley told The Sunday Gleaner.

"What is missing is that the current government does not appreciate the importance of ICTs as an economic driver, as a tool for growth and employment," added Wheatley.

He said the first thing on the JLP's agenda will be to establish true universal access by providing free Internet access to essential government and educational services for every citizen.

"This is possible, because it is about a public-private partnership. A lot of telecoms companies give free access to certain websites such as Facebook, so it is not something that is way off," said Wheatley.

"Getting free Internet access, especially as it relates to government and educational services, is something that can be implemented in very short order, so it is not a cost to the Jamaican people."

According to Wheatley, the JLP will also look to start a work-from-home initiative, as it plans to introduce the Electronic Home-Office Mode of Employment (eHome). He argued that this would save the Government and workers money as it will cut overhead expenses.

The JLP is also promising to make Jamaica the Caribbean's leading producer of technology by creating a Technology Innovation Fund (TIF) to provide sustainable financing of technology-based projects and start-ups.

"One of the main hindrances to our start-up industries getting off the ground is the lack of funding. It is something that, as a country, we need to be more integral in how we develop our talent especially in the technology sector, because when these start-ups are successful, the Government will have money coming in from them."

Wheatley said that the plan is to work closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure holistic, efficient, and effective use of technology to support teaching and learning as well as improved education administration throughout the system.

There is also planned collaboration with the proposed new Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation to broaden support for business process outsourcing (BPO), beyond just call-centre services, so employment opportunities for university graduates and professionals are expanded.

The JLP has further promised to drive better ICT governance practises throughout the Government to make it more efficient and to make information more accessible, including use of the corps of young people trained through the National Service Programme and National Apprenticeship Programme.

There is also promise of several legislative changes including the repeal of the 15-year-old Telecommunications Act to be replaced with a new ICT Act, promulgating and passing into law: Data Protection, Data Privacy & Sharing Acts, and also the review, repeal and update of the Electronic Transactions Act with its subsequent reassignment to the technology (ICT) portfolio.

Wheatley further argued that the absence of proper laws to govern data protection, data privacy, and data sharing has hindered the creation of a truly digital society.

Finally, the JLP is pledging to introduce a comprehensive e-Waste Management policy and legislation to establish protocols for the recycling, rehabilitation, re-use, and proper disposal of electronic waste.

"Every electronic circuit board has what we call rare metals on them and these can be recycled," Wheatley said.

"What we plan to do is to create an industry around that where we recycle these and if this thing gets up and running, we are looking at 5,000 jobs in the short term."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com