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Technology in Focus | Technology matters to Jamaica in 2019

Published:Wednesday | January 23, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Technology has increasingly become an integral part of the lives of Jamaicans and businesses locally. How the country continues to integrate new technologies into the way it conducts business and other daily transactions of value, will play a key role in its development.

Below are a few technology matters Jamaicans can expect to garner some attention in the local news media and among stakeholders in 2019.


1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

United States-based research and advisory firm Gartner believes all software will use AI at some level, within a few years. According to Tamique Hines, software development services manager at MC Systems, several local companies are already exploring how they can enhance efficiencies and increase productivity using AI, particularly in the area of machine learning. AI, which enables machines to simulate human ability and intelligence, remains largely untapped globally, Hines says, and many local companies and organisations can gain a competitive advantage by using AI to customise products and services, as well as automate some manual processes.


2. National Identification System (NIDS)

The Government is pressing ahead with plans to implement NIDS by September. However, that could be affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling on a claim brought by the Opposition concerning the constitutionality of aspects of the proposed legislation to establish the system.

NIDS is expected to allow for the digital registration of all Jamaicans, who will each be given a unique national identification number that will become their primary source of identity verification. This will allow the government to establish a database of Jamaican citizens.

3. Blockchain Technology

The use of blockchain technology is on the list of top five trends to watch in 2019 among several industry pundits, includingForbes Magazine. Described as a decentralised, distributed and public digital ledger, a blockchain can contain a variety of transaction types, which are stored online as a shared database across many computer servers.

Often narrowed down to its use for cryptocurrency, because of its creation to support the digital currency, Bitcoin, the technology’s utility is much wider. Locally, it is being eyed by realtors as a tool to speed up the mortgage process. The Realtors Association of Jamaica moots that the cloud-based storage provided by blockchain could facilitate several parties working on documents involved in the mortgage process simultaneously, which would reduce the time spent to approve and disburse mortgages.

Economist Dr Andre Haughton has also proposed the use of blockchain for stock trading locally, particularly in the development of a platform for micro, small, and medium enterprises. Similar to the mortgage process, he believes that the technology can reduce transactions between traders, brokers, regulators and the stock exchange.


4. Data Protection

Still before a joint select committee of Parliament, the Data Protection Bill seeks to protect the personal data of citizens and to provide them with certain rights and will offer more control over the use of their personal data. Although focus on the bill diminished since the last sitting on the joint committee last March, the bill is expected to retake the spotlight sometime this year when the committee resumes its sittings and continues the parliamentary process. Data protection, rights and privacy came into sharp focus last year with the introduction of General Data Protection Regulations by the European Union and the compromising of the data of some 50 million Facebook users in 2018.