Jamaican Gov’t moves to promote e-transactions

BY: Karen Taylor (JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Energy, Mining and Telecommunications, placed major emphasis on promoting e-transactions, as part of the effort to transform Jamaican into a digital society and drive national development.

In keeping with this focus, on October 23, the Ministry launched a public education program to inform the public of the rights, responsibilities and benefits that obtain under the Electronic Transactions Act, and stimulate interest in e-transaction among the business sector.

The program, which will promote public confidence in the integrity and reliability of electronic documents and electronic transactions, will use radio, television and print media, focus groups and regional meetings across the island to sensitize the public.

The E-Transaction Act, which came into effect on April 2, 2007, sets out the legal framework for electronic business transactions in Jamaica.

Also during October, five of the island’s post offices were selected to introduce a range of commercial and e-transaction services under a new pilot initiative. The post offices are Santa Cruz, Christiana, May Pen, Darliston and Port Antonio.

Energy, Mining and Telecommunications, Minister Mullings said that the Post and Telecommunications Department has introduced a range of new commercial and agency services, aimed at leveraging customers’ demand for e-transactions services. Electronic business services for the collection, distribution and clearance of items through a Miami warehouse, as well as door to door pick-up and mail courier services within the corporate area, will soon come on stream.

Noting that a number of Government agencies were already successfully conducting e-transactions, Mr. Mullings said that public confidence in electronic-based government services is growing, and urged all the major sectors to tap into opportunities for electronic transactions, as this will translate into “increased revenue for Jamaica”.

Minister Mullings announced on November 15, that the Ministry will be placing emphasis on the establishment of community access points, as part of efforts to increase public access to information technology. He said that administrators of the Universal Access Fund, which will fund this venture, have given positive feedback to the initiative.

Jamaica hosted the 5th annual Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) from September 24 to 26 under the theme: ‘Harnessing the potential of Next Generation Networks to facilitate ICT Convergence.’ More than 100 delegates from 30 Caribbean and Commonwealth countries attended the event, which was held in Montego Bay.

Addressing the forum, Minister Mullings reiterated the government’s commitment to encouraging greater competitiveness in the ICT sector. He emphasized that whereas players already in the sector must be applauded for their innovations, attracting more local and international investors to the sector was essential for the creation of jobs and the increase in national growth.

He noted that Jamaica has made significant strides in creating a business/consumer friendly environment for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) promotion, development and expansion, with the necessary steps taken to ensure that the requisite legal and regulatory framework is in place to facilitate the process.

In terms of the energy portfolio, Minister Mullings, during a tour of the Petrojam refinery in October, said that the government has given Petrojam the go-ahead to enter into a cogeneration partnership with the Jamaica Public Service (JPS).

Mr. Mullings said that the Ministry has signed off on the deal, which is part of a larger upgrading and expansion project at the refinery. The project will involve the construction of a 120-mega watt cogeneration facility at the JPS’ Hunts Bay plant, which will be run on petroleum coke (petcoke) produced by Petrojam. A by-product of petroleum crude, petcoke costs less than a quarter of the price paid for fuels such as coal, which is used in current generating technology.

In November, a Jamaican delegation, which included Minister Mullings, traveled to Caracas, Venezuela to discuss the renewal of the PetroCaribe energy agreement as well as other areas of cooperation among the two Governments.

The Jamaican delegation met with top level officials of the Venezuelan government, including Rodolfo Sanz, Vice-Minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs.

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