Minister — Internet Access A Right To Every Citizen

Fayval Williams, the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology says the coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought home forcefully the need to make access to the Internet a right to every citizen.

“This right is fundamentally inseparable from the right to education and healthcare,” the Minister said while participating in an online webinar hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS), titled ‘Science, Technology and Innovation to Mitigate the Effects of COVID-19.”

The Minister noted that for Jamaica’s future, post COVID-19 activities should include “scaling up access to energy, whether on or off the grid, in our inner cities and deep rural villages; [the] establishment of a National Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to leapfrog Jamaica’s move to a digital society; [the] Data Protection Legislation already passed in the Lower House of Parliament to broaden the rights of our citizens in a significantly transformed technological landscape; [and] increasing access to public services with MYGOVJM app that will improve citizens’ access to their government, e-participation, e-decision-making and e-access”.

She posited the view that COVID-19 will impact the country negatively, citing the effect on the 2020/2021 Budget, which has been reduced from $853 billion to $838 billion, with the biggest impact on the Capital expenditure, which has moved from $76.2 billion to $46.1 billion.

Additionally, the Minister noted that the gross domestic product (GDP) for the fiscal year is expected to decline by 5.1 per cent; revenues are projected to decline by 18 per cent; and the Net International Reserve (NIR), which stood at more than US$3 billion pre-COVID-19, is being utilized to provide some level of foreign exchange liquidity, as the main source of foreign exchange earnings (tourism) is projected to decline by more than 80 per cent.

The Government has put in place a stimulus package of $25 billion to cushion the impact of COVID-19, with some $10 billion allocated to assist the most vulnerable in the society, through the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme.

She also opined on the impact that COVID-19 will have on the world.

“The world faces a threat of unprecedented proportion – unprecedented in scope and impact. The shock to the global economy will further weaken small developing economies and reverse gains that have been made through frameworks such as the Millennium Development Goals,” said the Minister.

“The performance of many countries on key indices, such as the Human Development Index and the Human Poverty Index is expected to decline,” she added.

Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Fellow

Edited by Jesus Chan

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