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Jamaica’s Low Net Penetration – Broadband Internet A Universal Right

Here in the Developing World, such as out little island of Jamaica, there is little interest in PCs or Laptops, which are mostly seen as “bling” to have for the purpose of playing, downloading and burning music and movies.

The results of the recently released statistics from an island-wide Caribbean ICT Indicators and Broadband Survey for Jamaica that paint a stark, gloomy picture of Technology adoption in Jamaica.

 

I am so depressed by these findings, that I fear publishing this article, as it is a sad indictment against a Government of Jamaica that has Ministers who are not Tech-savvy enough to even use email on their Blackberry. This as revealed during the now concluded Manatt Enquiry in Jamaica, the best Soap Opera since the Young and the Restless.

The Dr. Hopeton Dunn-led Survey, conducted involving two thousand two hundred (2200) participant households by the Mona School of Business (MSB) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona concludes that:

  • 15.6% of households have Internet access
  • 38 % of individuals use the Internet once per day
  • 24% have a home PC
  • Average users range in age from fifteen to thirty four (15 to 34)

Reasons for the Lack of Internet Access?:

  • 32.4% said Laptops and PC’s are too expensive
  • 23.9% are just not interested (shocking!!)
  • 15.2% said Internet Service cost was too high
  • 10.4% cited lack of Internet access in their Area
  • 8.4% mentioned they did not know how to use a computer

A neat, complete answer to the findings of the Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 published by the World Economic Forum (WEO).

The Report, co-authored by Thierry Geiger, points to a decline in Internet Penetration and Internet Usage for Productive enterprise in Jamaica, which is ranked at number seventy three (73) in the world, being among the top ten (10) worst countries as it relates to access to the Internet.

The other countries who have earned this dubious honour are: Mauritania, Algeria, Venezuela, Argentina, El Salvador, the Slovak Republic, Mexico, Thailand and Bolivia. ‘

Mostly South American countries, making me wonder, dear reader if for them too, PC and Laptops are “bling” as known here from anecdotal sources and thus may be part of the image associated with computers and Internet Access being for the privileged wealthy minority in their country.

But it’s what they do online that is most troubling. Again a simple breakdown of the statistics presented in the Caribbean ICT Indicators and Broadband Survey:

  • 71.7% used it for Social Networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter
  • 65.4% used the Internet for Education purposes

Almost no Business related activity online, thus making the Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 ranking of Jamaica at number seventy three (73) in the world only logical.

Few Software Developers in a country that sees computers as another appliance and “bling” only good enough for streaming, downloading and watching video and listening to music and burning copyright material, be it music, video or proprietary programs on DVD’s or CD’s.

This as opposed to being a Computer Programmer (as in computer languages!!) as opposed to loading the PC with copyright software, also an aspect of downloading!

Thus, albeit optimistic at the opportunity for Growth as soon as Americans make the full switch to Tablets and cloud-based Smartbooks, I am cautiously optimistic about Jamaicans adopting ANY new technology.

We Jamaicans are a rugged, modify-able products culture with lower pricing points driving sales rather than a love of technology.

Straight up, the typical Jamaican regards the Tablet that the Americans are crazy over as a flimsy toy.

But there is hope.

Ironically, it lies with our Government of Jamaica and Telecom Providers, who are partly responsible for our lackluster showing on the World stage in terms of our IT Readiness as the Low Internet Penetration and Computer Usage reflects.

The Government of Jamaica recently announced an islandwide Fiber Optics Internet Project to be funded to the tune of JA$543 million dollars by the UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited).

A little know Government Agency that collects a tax from the Telecom Providers that is earmarked for projects e.g. e-Learning Project to place computers in schools to the tune of JA$2 billion dollars.

These projects have to be related to Telecoms in much the same way that Bauxite Levy are used to build schools and roads or the CHASE Fund that collects uncollected Lottery winnings from SVL (Supreme Ventures Limited) is earmarked for Social Projects.

This build-out of an islandwide 100MBps capable Fiber Optics Internet Network to interconnect about three (300) hundred schools was announced a week prior to the above damning Global Information Technology Report (2010-2011) and the Dr. Hopeton Dunn Caribbean ICT Indicators and Broadband Survey that explains the findings of said report.

This project, to be undertaken under contract by LIME and FLOW, is a major Project and is islandwide with a completion date in 2016AD, five (5) years from now.

But give it another two (2) years before Tablets begin to catch on, I always like to say about any technology adoption. In that time the Recession battered Economy may improve.

The chief complaints of being unable to afford computers and the “high” cost of Internet and lack of interest thereof may be erased when Jamaicans have more money in their hands and improved Access to Broadband Internet that this build out is sure to bring about.

During this time, perceptions about PC’s and Laptops being a sign of wealth and privilege due to their high cost as well as a lack of interest in the Internet needs to be dispelled via a strong five (5) year PR campaign to show Jamaicans legal ways of making money from the Internet, the sole motivation for Jamaicans to do anything.

Fodder for another article, I’m afraid………

This may, in turn, spur an entrepreneurial spirit among Jamaicans to engage with Telecom Providers and get the Government of Jamaica interested in making Broadband Internet a Universal Right on the same level as Life, Liberty, Freedom of Speech as well as Light and Water, as is the case in Finland.

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.
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