By Caribbean News Global contributor
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Jamaicans are on the cusp of receiving electronic passports (e-passports), as part of the transformation process taking place at the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), part of the new national Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) project, launched on January 15 at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston.
The PKI project will be rolled out during the next seven months, with the objective of making Jamaica a more digital society, in which there is ubiquitous use of information and communications technology (ICT) in all spheres, such as home, work, school, and recreation.
This forms part of the government’s National Identification System (NIDS) and will enable trusted electronic identities for people, services and things, and make it possible to implement strong authentication, data encryption, and digital signatures, based on a certifying authority.
Minister of science, energy, and technology, Fayval Williams said the project will be a game-changer for Jamaicans. “Right now, PICA and eGov are the first movers. Coming down the line next to use the PKI infrastructure will be the registrar general’s department, so get ready. Their new service portal, when developed, will allow persons to apply online and print their digital birth certificates,” she explained.
“The significance of the National Public Key Infrastructure is that once implemented, Jamaica will have the foundation to begin using digital signatures and inscription nationally. The purpose of a digital signature is to guarantee that the individual sending the message of the document is really who he or she claims to be,” she said.
Meanwhile, chief executive officer, PICA, Andrew Wynter, said the PKI is a critical cornerstone for the building out of the technological and digital footprint that the agency has embarked on for the last year.
“With electronic passports, this technology is over 10 years old, and almost a billion e-passports have been issued by many countries. E-passports have been issued in Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East, and approximately 11 of the 15 CARICOM states have already implemented e-passports.
“The increasing use of biometrics and other technologies are shaping the global future of border security frameworks,” Wynter added, “The new e-passport will indicate to any country Jamaicans go to that the country’s system is fully in line with any passport system. The PKI will be used to digitally sign each e-passport, in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) technical requirement.
“Software certificates are shared with immigration services worldwide, enabling other countries to fully validate and authenticate our documents. When we travel abroad and the immigration overseas swipes our passport, there’s a one-to-one authentication system, which will allow them to confirm that this is the true identity [of the person],” adding that “this will protect against identity theft.” Wynter said.
Meanwhile, the minister of tourism Edmond Bartlett, says a preliminary report from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) is showing that in 2019, the sector earned between US$3.7 billion and US$3.8 billion, some US$500 million more than in 2018.
Speaking at a press conference, January 15, at the JTB offices in New Kingston, Bartlett said stopover arrivals for the year grew by eight percent – describing the industry’s performance as “spectacular and exciting” and that “The measure of tourism in both arrivals and earnings, but the most powerful part of it is the earnings, which have increased by US$1.8 billion in just over three years.”
Minister Bartlett argued that the continued growth in tourism results from the setting of targets, which he did after assuming office in 2016, reporting reported that the country has already outperformed, by 2,000, the projection to have 127,000 persons employed in the sector by 2021, and that all the other targets are almost reached.
“The best part of our success is in the retention increase that we have had in the dollar,” Bartlett said, explaining that in 2016, Jamaica was retaining 30 cents in every dollar earned in the industry, but it is now at 40.8 cents, a 30 percent increase. The government moved quickly to ensure an end to the seasonality of tourism, and to make it an all-year activity that provides employment security to workers.
The minister emphasised that growth in the sector is not just for the administration. “It is the result of the stakeholders, the hoteliers, and the little worker.”
Bartlett also reported that the pension fund for tourism workers was one of the targets he set, and on January 20, the evaluation for fund managers and fund administrators will be completed – pointed out that the hoteliers have been “responsive” to the pension scheme, and they are eager to know the precise date of commencement, “so that they can plan their cash flow”.
In the coming weeks, Bartlett said: “Ground will be broken for another 7,000 hotel rooms, adding that some 3,000 houses are under construction, primarily focusing on workers in the tourist industry”.
This article draws on JIS reports from Ainsworth Morris and Garfield L. Angus