By Garfield L. Angus
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of science, technology, energy and mining, Phillip Paulwell, says countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are looking to adopt Jamaica’s successful telecoms model, including the financing of the Universal Service Fund (USF).
Speaking at the official opening of the Michael Black Business Resource Centre in St Andrew last Wednesday, he said that, at a meeting of CARICOM technology ministers in Grenada last week, an examination of the model developed by Jamaican was discussed.
He disclosed that “major” talks are expected to take place at the CARICOM Inter-Sessional meeting slated for February 24 and 25 in St Vincent and the Grenadines, as the countries move forward in adopting Jamaica’s model.
“For the first time… at the meeting in February, ICT (information communication technology) will be a major item for the CARICOM heads of government to deal with. Throughout the discussion last week, people were commenting on the Jamaican model, not only how we were able to liberalise and open up the sector, but also how we were able to creatively fund the Universal Service (Fund). It is going to become a model for the rest of the Caribbean,” he stated.
Paulwell said that the technology ministers forum “tried to create a space for the Caribbean, because, apart from being the great enabler for everything, including healthcare and education, ICT is an industry in itself to create jobs, and this is one area where you can make money.”
The USF, an initiative of the Jamaican government, collect funds from incoming telephone calls, to be used for developing the nation’s broadband services island-wide and enable more Jamaicans to access ICT, through the establishment of community access points (CAPS) at schools, libraries, post offices and other facilities.
Approximately $10 billion has come into the fund’s coffers to date and 163 CAPS have been set up.
Paulwell said he is pleased with the number of elderly persons using the community facilities.
“In every parish, we have these access points, and they serve well, because it is not only designed for young people. This is a facility for all members of the community. I am so impressed when I go into communities and see the elderly coming out to learn how to send an email, they only knew about telegram; that was the fastest thing they knew about…our lives are being better because of the technology,” the minister said.
The Michael Black Business Resource Centre was set up at a cost of approximately $3 million and is equipped with 15 computers, and associated equipment such as printers.