The Government of Jamaica has made the integration of information technology into the Jamaican economy a high priority and a strategic imperative. It aims to promote Jamaica as a Caribbean hub for IT activities and investment. A three-pronged approach envisages transformations in human resource development, in infrastructure and in the enactment of an enabling legislative and policy framework. A Cabinet sub-committee for IT is steering the process, together with a newly set up Central IT Office (CITO). The former Ministry of Industry and Commerce now has "Technology" added to its name and government has publicized its intention to generate 40,000 IT-related jobs in the coming three-year period. Strategic and other measures being adopted in the short term include:
the annual allocation of 2 to 4 per cent of the national budget to IT initiatives
catalyzing Ministry tactical plans, with an emphasis on education, for the harnessing of ICTs in the various socio-economic sectors
the development of an appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of government services.
In addition, a series of high-profile pilot projects are being undertaken to demonstrate the benefits of IT in the short-term. These projects are intended to further the goal of universal access and emphasize public access to information. The post office network is earmarked for the delivery of a wide range of community services, such as on-line health-care, weather and disaster preparedness bulletins, the marketing of products and agricultural extension services. Expansion of this infrastructure will also facilitate greater public access to government services, communication with government agencies, Parliament and parliamentarians, thereby reinforcing the democratic process.
Long-term goals include:
the creation of a nation wide public IT network which is competitively priced, utilizes multiple sources and relies on the private sector
the provision of efficient government services to the public through the use of IT
the use of IT to increase international trade
the adoption of e-commerce for Government functions, as a stimulus to private sector take-up. The latter will also be facilitated through the provision of the infrastructural components for the take-up of e-commerce and e-business, particularly by SMEs.
Currently, the quality of service to the public is deemed as poor and is characterized by: (I) cumbersome procedures; (ii) long delays; (iii) unsatisfactory resolution of problems faced by clients; (iv) high private costs of compliance with laws and regulations; and (v) discourteous behaviour.
The Jamaican public sector displays characteristics commonly found in most established bureaucracies. Rigid laws and regulations govern Public Sector entities. Compliance with these laws and regulations takes precedence over achieving organizational objectives. In turn, this reduces responsiveness to emerging situations and discourages innovation.
Decision-making is hierarchical and most decisions get pushed up the senior level. Many senior level officials regard themselves as policy makers, controllers or regulators, rather than facilitators.
In addition, both managerial and operational business in the public sector need re-engineering. Most of the current business processes were established decades ago and continue unchanged. In spite of major changes in the external environment and the role of the public sector, business processes have not been restructured. Many business processes that could be completed in one-step or location are fragmented between different organizations or different sections within a given organization.
However, the Government has begun to make important changes in the operations of public sector institutions to improve efficiencies through a Public Sector Modernization Programme.
The Public Sector Modernization programme is being funded by the Government of Jamaica, the World Bank, and the British Department for International Development and the European Union. The aim is to modernize 17 pilot agencies and 3 pilot Ministries, in order to enhance efficiency and improve performance, as well as the quality of service provided to the public. Ten pilot agencies will be transformed into Executive Agencies, with greater responsibility for service delivery, financial management and human resources management. Executive Agencies will be rewarded for realizing efficiency gains, improving effectiveness or realizing revenue increases. Conversely, sanctions will be applied for poor performance.
Other aspects of the public sector programme include: i) privatizing or contracting out Government services in cases where these services are better performed by private providers; ii) reforming the Government procurement system to improve transparency and efficiency; iii) the establishment of computerized information systems in the public sector to improve financial and personnel management. The next phase of the programme envisages extending the reforms to the entire public sector.
Under the National IT Strategy the relevant goals state that:
The Government of Jamaica plans to provide its citizens with efficient government services through the use of IT.
Networks will be established to allow access to government services from libraries, post offices, banks, hospitals and other public locations. The Government will coordinate the locations access, presentation methods, and sharing of resources. The key focus is to have citizens throughout the country, even in rural areas, be able to find and receive information and services from different government organizations consistently and easily.
Actions towards this end include:
Delivery of two types of services: i) providing information to the public, and ii) allowing transactions to be performed. Early emphasis is to be placed on the former, i.e. provision of information to the public. The Minister of Commerce and Technology will establish a goal to provide a certain percentage of information services to the public within the next three years. For example, 25% of information services will be provided by the year 2003.
Identifying a set of government services suitable for electronic self-service. Enough progress has been made in other countries in the area of electronic government to permit identification and widespread deployment of a core set of commonly requested government services that citizens can initiate and complete in a single electronic session.
Expand locations where public can access information and obtain public services. To ensure that all citizens have equal access to technology, establish a network of kiosk or computer systems that provide Government information and services in prominent locations in each region of Jamaica. or broaden access to the rural communities, IT needs to be placed where the public can use it in convenient community locations, such as libraries, post offices, banks, hospitals, and other government offices. For example, rural public libraries can be networked with main libraries to expand the services that are available to the public throughout the country.
Use partnerships to obtain support, knowledge, loans, computers, services and training to further the development of the IT industry in Jamaica. Develop partnerships with industry, universities, and multi-lateral and multi-national organizations. Partnerships are vital to achieving strategic IT goals. These partnerships facilitate major culture changes throughout the government. Public and private sector partners work together to provide more efficient and effective government services.