Demand hits 750,000 sq ft
Jamaica will develop 100,000 square feet of factory space by next year, but it amounts to a fraction of the demand and the Government will be relying on private investors to drive the programme.
Phillip Paulwell, the minister of science, technology, energy and mining, says the information, communication and technology (ICT) programme aims to grow jobs through subsectors such as mobile applications or 'apps', micro work, e-lancing, and crowdsourcing in addition to business process outsourcing (BPO).
"To satisfy the many investors that are considering Jamaica as a BPO destination, we need some 750,000 square feet of space, and the Government is now actively looking at how we can forge public-private partnerships to achieve that," said Paulwell
Currently, there are 13, 000 people employed directly in the industry, and 26 companies in operation, the minister said in Montego Bay at the September 28 commissioning of VistaPrint's new 92,000-square-foot complex on a 4.4-hectare property in the Barnett Technology Park.
The state-operated Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) will be transforming some 63,000 square feet of space in the Montego Bay Free Zone, with retrofitting and construction to be completed in 18 months, Paulwell said.
The project is being done in conjunction with the newly formed Business Processing Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ).
The FCJ did not respond to a request for more details on the project.
The new Vistaprint facility, a US$25m investment, employs 19 per cent or 700 of the company's global workforce of 3,700.
To attract and retain other investors like Vistaprint, Paulwell said his ministry was reshaping policy to create universal access to high-speed data for a more investor-friendly environment.
It began with the promulgation of the Telecommunications Amendment Act, and repealed the exclusive right of Cable and Wireless to offer services to BPO companies in the Montego Bay Free Zone.
"Right now, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining is working on a Data Protection Act, an amendment to the Electronic Transactions Act and Cybercrimes Act, as well as on the establishment of a single regulator for the ICT sector and a Cyber Emergency Response Team (CERT)," said Paulwell.
He also indicated that the Universal Service Fund (USF), formerly the Universal Access Fund, is funding wireless broadband access for all students across the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.
The USF also aims to provide 500,000 children with tablet computers and wireless broadband in their neighbourhoods.