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JM | Dec 16, 2020

Michael Lee-Chin named to lead newly established National Broadband Taskforce

/ Our Today

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Second task force appointed, which is of a technical nature to provide input and oversight. (Photo: Inc. Magazine)

The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) has appointed businessman, Michael Lee-Chin to lead it’s just established National Broadband Taskforce.

The taskforce, which was announced in parliament last evening, is responsible for driving the rollout of the GOJ multi-billion-dollar broadband network across the island. This ambitious task, costing some US$237 million, will see each and every house in Jamaica being equipped with broadband services by 2025.

In announcing the appointment of Lee-Chin—who is also the chairman of the Government’s Economic Growth Council—Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Daryl Vaz, disclosed that the Holness administration has already secured the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The IDB will be helping to develop a national broadband strategy, which will support the implementation of the requisite infrastructure.

The Michael Lee-Chin taskforce is also mandated to provide high-level guidance to the ministry’s team and to ensure that the interaction with the IDB and other stakeholders remains targeted and strategic.

In keeping with that mandate, the ministry has proceeded to leverage the expertise of global thought leaders in Information Communication Technology (ICT) to provide high-level advice and strategic guidance and also to bolster the national capacities to build sustainable ICT infrastructures.

International donor community also involved

Thirteen members of the international donor community have indicated an interest in working with the GOJ in the digital transformation of the society.

The national broadband network that is being rolled out is expected to scale up e-government infrastructure across the country while strengthening Jamaica’s readiness to operate in the virtual space.

This is in addition to hastening the transformation to a new Jamaica built on the foundation of a digital society, which will form the backbone of the island’s economic recovery and provide the best possible success for sustainable growth.

Current data shows fixed broadband penetration at 11.65% and mobile penetration at 59.76%. The distribution is even more troubling with the penetration highly skewed to urban centers while the vast majority of the rural population remains unserved and underserved.

Core technical task force formed

A core technical taskforce has also been formed to provide the technical input and oversight required to drive the implementation of the strategy and the corresponding broadband network as well as to recommend any policy, legislative or regulatory changes that may be required to ensure sustainability.

This task force is chaired by the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology and has membership from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), Spectrum Management Authority and the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica.

Also included on the technical task force are eGov Jamaica Limited, Universal Service Fund and the National Works Agency (NWA). Over the past few weeks, meetings were held with the technical taskforce and representatives of other key ministries, departments and agencies.

This has allowed the technical task force to map the existing broadband infrastructure, map other existing infrastructure, which could be leveraged for the deployment of the physical broadband network and to identify the public sites requiring broadband connectivity and prioritisation of the sites which require same.

The technical team has also been able to identify high-level technical specifications of the infrastructure that will be required and the estimated cost for implementation and identify critical policies, laws and regulations which may be required to ensure sustainability.

Multi-sectoral approach being used

Minister Vaz pointed that, “this multi-sectoral approach is to ensure that we achieve last mileconnectivity to all public institutions. Given the socio-economic parameters of the country, last mile deployment must have a social focus that will see connectivity to main sites such as schools, health centers, community centers, postal points, local municipalities and police stations across the country.”

Technology Minister Daryl Vaz. (Photo: IISD.org)

This expansion will see significant expansion in coverage of broadband not just to these institutions but directly to the people of Jamaica.

“This deployment of broadband into the nooks and crannies of Jamaica – deep rural, inner cities, outer cities, urban centres, rural towns will be the single most impactful intervention to eliminate the digital divide that now exists in our country,” Minister Vaz explained. 

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