Jamaica ranked 49th by Global Information Technology report

(JIS) – The 2004/05 Global Information Technology Report has ranked Jamaica 49th out of 106 countries in Networked Readiness.

This report, which used data collected by the World Bank and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), also placed Jamaica first in the Caribbean and fifth in the western hemisphere, falling only behind the United States, Canada, Chile and Brazil.

Other rankings saw Jamaica at number 44 in Information Communication Technology usage, 51st in regulatory environment, 43rd in individual usage and 54th in business usage.

Commerce, Science and Technology Minister, Phillip Paulwell, who made the announcement during the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate at Gordon House yesterday (June 1), said while the digital divide was still a reality, progress had been made.

He noted that ICT was the bedrock for a modern Jamaica, and that every effort must be made to increase connectivity, sustainable commercial usage, rich content, capital and skills.

The Minister said, “Jamaica’s achievements in e-readiness could not be belittled”, a point underscored by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking of Jamaica as 41st of 65 major economies in e-readiness, in its April 2005 release. He noted that as Jamaica was now leading the region in this development, it stood to benefit even more.

Although Jamaica is the only English speaking country currently included in the EIU’s e-readiness rankings, its position on the list places it in the middle of Latin American countries in the region. The four countries placed ahead of Jamaica are: Chile (31st), Mexico (36th), Brazil (38th), and Argentina (39th).

Meanwhile, the four countries placed after Jamaica were Venezuela (45th), Colombia (48th), Peru (53rd) and Ecuador (55th).

The report confirms that Jamaica is paving the way for growth in its e-business sector because of good standing in the areas of Business Environment, Legal and Policy Environment in relation to the highest scores in those categories. The country’s performance was weakest in the Connectivity and Technology Infrastructure.

Turning to developments in the telecommunications sector, Minister Paulwell said the deregulation of the sector has accrued to the island’s benefit. As at 2004, there were a total 2.1 million lines, inclusive of 423,000 landlines and 1.6 million mobile lines. Investments in the sector totaled US$700 million with revenue generated in excess of $60 billion. New entrants to the market include, Digicel, Miphone, People’s Telecom and Reliant.

Addressing consumer concerns about network identification, Minister Paulwell said he was currently in dialogue with companies for them to put in place a network identification system to enable the calling party to know the network into which they were dialing. He said it was expected that some headway would be made in the next 30 days.

In the meantime, Mr. Paulwell said the Office of Utilities Regulation and the Fair Trading Commission had been directed to conduct an investigation of the telecommunications industry, to provide advice on the impact of competition and the reasons for the failure of some operators, the experience of new entrants, the barriers to entry, growth and sustainable development.

On the fourth mobile license granted to Wireless Ventures Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the US based AT&T Wireless, Minister Paulwell informed that the full $360 million for the value of the license had been received, bringing the revenue collected from cell phone licensing to $4 billion.

He noted, however, that since the granting of the license, AT&T mobile had been sold to Cingular. Explaining, he said the one-year period, which was given to the entity to utilize the spectrum, has elapsed. Since the company had failed to use it, the Spectrum Management Authority has been authorized to notify them that they are in breach of the regulations.

Mr. Paulwell pointed out that the license granted could not be transferred without the Minister’s approval, and that the matter would be dealt with quickly. “We can’t have spectrum, which is valuable, going to waste and we can’t have a company allocating spectrum without my approval,” he said.

The Jamaican policy prohibits the sale of telecommunication licenses without regulatory and Ministerial approval. In addition, spectrum frequencies cannot be passed from a licensee to any other party; it must be returned to the Authority or the Minister must specifically approve the transfer.

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