Wed | Sep 30, 2020

Williams reports progress on digital Jamaica initiative

Published:Friday | January 24, 2020 | 12:32 AM

Of the 361 services offered by the Jamaica Government, only 30, or eight per cent, can be started and completed online.

That suggests the Government has a mammoth task to achieve its policy goal of a fully digital Jamaica, one that requires the processing of some 32 million records and legislative changes, but a programme that Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Fayval Williams asserts will be wrapped up sooner than Jamaicans expect.

To give effect to ‘digital Jamaica’, the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology developed an eight-prong strategy: creation of an ICT authority; government-wide broadband infrastructure; data-collection and information-sharing policies; public key infrastructure; a digital national identification system; data protection legislation; an electronic transactions act; and the digitisation of 32 million physical records across government in getting Jamaica aligned with global standards.

On Wednesday, Minister Williams reported that there has been some progress on elements of four of the eight-point plan, as a featured speaker at the Jamaica Stock Exchange 15th Regional Investments and Capital Markets Conference.

“I want to give you a clear understanding of what the government is doing to speed up Jamaica’s goal of becoming a fully digital society so that it will no longer take of average of 4.3 active hours to complete a government transaction or require three or more visits to a government office to complete the transaction you already waited 4.3 hours for,” Williams said.

“I’m sure that you will agree with me that this is a grand waste of our collective time. This is where citizens’ blood pressure boils, and they get angry and upset because they could be doing more productive and valuable activities other than waiting in line,” she noted to resounding applause from a packed room.

A study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank titled ‘Wait no more – Citizens, Red tape and Digital Government Caribbean Edition’, found that only 11 per cent of government transactions in Jamaica can be completed in one visit and 45 per cent requires three or more visits to a government office.

“Why is that? Most of these services that we cannot offer in a digital realm result from the fact that there are a lot of cases where we are required to show up in person to proof of identity,” said Williams in response to the IDB findings.

So far, half of the eight initiatives put forward by the minister has been partially implemented and has been passed in Parliament, while the remainder either awaits legislative work or roll-out of the initiative.

One of them, the public key infrastructure or PKI programme, is expected to be completed over the next seven to eight months. It’s meant to facilitate the distribution of certificates for e-passport issuance, issuance of certifications for Jamaica’s digital identification card, along with authenticating the use of digital signatures required for the registration of motor vehicles and other assets online, applications and renewal for driver’s licence, and the transfer of land.

“What I’m trying to convey to you is that we can almost see the finish line. Digital Jamaica is coming sooner than you expect,” said Minister Williams.

“I believe digital Jamaica will be a place in which you won’t have to wait in line at the tax office, I believe that in the event of an emergency, ambulance workers will be able to pull up your identification number to view your medical history. The growth that the digital change is expected to bring to the economy is potentially very substantial,” she said.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com