Digital industry expected to lift Jamaica into a new age

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Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Alando Terrelonge, at the inaugural Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) ‘G5 Symposium’, Friday, October 11. [Photo: Okoye Henry]

By Okoye Henry

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Minister of State in the ministry of education, youth and information, Alando Terrelonge, says stakeholders in the digital industry should not waver in their determination to move Jamaica into a new age of digital technology, speaking at the inaugural Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) ‘G5 Symposium’, Friday, October 11.

The event was organised under the theme ‘Improving Network & Digital Industry Regulations: The Sustainable Use of Spectrum’. It featured discussions, on Digital Transformation, Value of Spectrum to Economic Growth and Development, and Balancing your Fiscal Space vs. Connecting the Underserved.

Terrelonge charged stakeholders to hasten steps to ensure that the “digital switchover to enable the age of 5G happens, [and happens] within a short time”.

“There is a great future for our country. To this end, we must work collaboratively within the spirit of participation to achieve a future. A future that is ready for the age of technology and one that sees our younger generation having not just increased access but the ability to make a living,” adding, “It will certainly allow our creative people to find greater avenues to export their talents, to exploit them,” Terrelonge said.

Terrelonge also argued that reshaping the legislative framework for media and content regulation to fit the 21st-century standard is the way forward. In accordance with this, he said Jamaica will need to expand media literacy and digital awareness programmes by working through schools and educational organisations to engage students and adults.

“We must also ensure that our children and adults are able to utilise the power of increased connectivity. It’s not just for social media and social life but this increased access can create significant wealth for our country and our people,” Terrelonge said.

“So, if we are to complete our discussions around the change from analogue to digital, then certainly it would help our local broadcasting providers to get into the homes quicker. It will give them (the people) more bandwidth to play with, better quality and also a lower cost,” he added.

Terrelonge, however, cautioned that as the country moves into this new digital age, the issue of information accuracy will be a major topic …“as we look at the future of telecommunication, the future of digital switchover, [and] the future of 5G”.

Meanwhile, SMA will be lobbying for new legislation to advance the digital industry, managing director of SMA, Dr Maria Myers-Hamilton, emphasised the need to update legislation to tackle current spectrum policy and regulatory issues.

She said this will allow for a more efficient transition to digitisation and connectivity of the local spectrum landscape, as well as facilitate improved regulation and management of the digital industry.

“One of the things we have heard is we (Jamaica) have outdated regulations. We have an Act that is from 1973. We have legislation sitting there that is holding back persons. So, a lot of work needs to be done. We need to move at a faster rate in terms of putting in, and tabling the legislation [and] driving the economy,” Dr Myers-Hamilton said.

“As the experts in the field, because we are the advisors to the minister when it comes to radio frequency, we are moving toward the writing of policy and recommendations to the ministry to consider change,” Dr Myers-Hamilton said.

She further noted that the transition from analogue to digital systems will allow for more investment and expansion in the market, and this will provide stronger connectivity to Jamaicans living in both urban and rural areas.

“The government of Jamaica has to sit down around the table with stakeholders once again and decide how we move forward. I think we have a lot of critical data which we are going to be encapsulating in a report from our rapporteurs that we will put toward to the government and the ministry, to effect policy and change going forward,” Dr Myers-Hamilton said.

Chairman of eGOV Jamaica Limited, professor Lloyd Waller, said that the symposium brought public-private partners together, where stakeholders “identified synergies and challenges” that currently exist in the industry. Raising awareness about the importance of the spectrum is essential to the development of Jamaica.

The SMA is an agency of the ministry of science, energy, and technology and serves as the national regulator for the radio frequency spectrum, facilitating expansion in the number of radio and free-to-air television stations as well as the liberalisation of the telecommunication sector.

 

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