The Jamaican Telecommunications Revolution

Technology has steadily evolved over the past decade. Never would we have thought that it would be possible to easily access the internet anywhere we go via our mobile phones. This ubiquitous access to technology has cause a revolution in the way we think, act, and do business in Jamaica. In a research paper entitled Telecommunications in Jamaica: Monopoly to Liberalized Competition to Monopoly (2000-2011) the authors state that the Jamaican government decided to liberalize the Jamaican telecommunications industry in 1999. The primary objectives of this move were to create “a competitive and vibrant telecommunications industry and to move Jamaica towards a knowledge-based connected society”. Indeed, these objectives were met with an ongoing battle between Cable and Wireless (now called LIME), Digicel, Flow, and American Movil (parent company of Claro) that has opened the gateways of internet access and mobile communication to the average Jamaican. Nevertheless, this liberalization has had a mixture of advantages and disadvantages that must be fully explored.

Where did face-to-face contact go?

Over the past 5 to 6 years, smart phones have become a mainstay in the Jamaican society. It began with the Blackberry which everyone in Jamaica was clamoring for. However, the decline of RIM (Blackberry’s parent company) has resulted in the Samsung Galaxy and Apple iPhone taking over the Jamaican smart phone market. Regardless of where you are in Jamaica, there always is at least one person with one of these smart phones. Jamaicans are now also so fully engrossed in these phones that they have very little interest in face-to-face communication. If they aren’t scrolling through their Facebook and Twitter feeds, they’re chatting on What’s App or BBM or Facebook Messenger. Therefore, this technological revolution has changed the way we communicate with each other.

Welcome the Mobile Apps

One of the best decisions that any business can make is investing in a mobile app that allows their customers to purchase their goods and services wherever they are in the world. Several Jamaican companies have realized this fact. For instance, an article entitled Young Entrepreneurs to launch ‘Smart Taxi’ Franchise published in the Jamaica Observer on May 7, 2014 highlights the creation of a smart taxi app by some young Jamaicans. This app will be launched at the end of summer and will be available on both Android and Apple iOS devices. Its main purpose is to enable commuters to book taxis using their wireless devices.

The creation of these and similar apps creates earning potential for several Jamaicans. Simply put, the more people that download an app is the more likely advertisers will want to advertise in that app.  According to mobithinking.comglobal expenditure on mobile ads in 2011 was US$5.3 billion”. Therefore, a Jamaican who is able to create a good and popular app can easily get a good portion of that US $5.3 billion. Revenue can also be garnered from in app purchases.  When Jamaicans are able to earn revenue and spend that revenue in Jamaica, they boost the Jamaican economy.

Technological Innovation

Jamaicans are trendsetters; we know how to be creative in any given situation It is, therefore, no surprise that greater access to the internet and mobile technology has resulted in the creation of some innovative products. One such product is EduFocal. Created by 22 year old Gordon Swaby, EduFocal is a technological company that is committed to providing students with a fun and enriching learning experience. Their website provides interactive games and quizzes that help students prepare for their GSAT and CSEC exams. Students are rewarded for their efforts and many have benefitted from the website.

Another powerful example of Jamaican technological innovation is the creation of the JGX Labs. This company was created by JJ Geewax, chief engineer at Invite Media, who was so impressed by the talent of Jamaicans who are able to create software. The company offers “office space, legal support, technical and business mentoring for technology start-ups”.  Geewax is making a worthwhile investment in a country filled with immense talent.

Global Access

Telecommunications has enabled Jamaicans to access the rest of the world. Companies are no longer restricted to the Jamaican society. Instead, they can offer their goods and services in the global market place. Furthermore, through the use of Skype and other messaging platforms, business owners and team leaders can have meetings with anyone anywhere in the world. Telecommunications have also enabled Jamaicans to participate in online shopping and carry out several banking transactions online.

 

In closing, the liberalization of the Jamaican telecommunications industry has opened up several avenues for many Jamaicans. Although it has negatively impacted the way we communicate to each other in some instances, it has allowed innovation and the rise of smart and determined technology entrepreneurs. If we continue on this path, there can only be a positive future for Jamaica.

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