Jamaica and European Union Launch “Digital Jamaica” Program to Accelerate Digital Transformation

On October 10, the Government of Jamaica, in collaboration with the European Union (EU), unveiled the Digital Jamaica program, a €9.5 million initiative aimed at expanding access to and utilisation of information and communications technologies (ICT) to facilitate the country’s transition to a digital economy and society.

Implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the Ministry of Education and Youth, and the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Digital Jamaica aims to connect Jamaicans through high-speed internet, establish Wi-Fi networks in schools, and provide digital skills training for students and teachers. The program will also extend support to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in adopting technological solutions.

By leveraging digital tools, the program seeks to bridge the digital divide, equip young people with essential digital skills, and foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Senator Dr. the Hon. Dana Morris Dixon, Minister without Portfolio in the OPM with oversight for Skills and Digital Transformation, praised Digital Jamaica as a catalyst for change and development. She emphasised that the program’s objective is not only to revolutionise Jamaica’s technological landscape but also to empower citizens by improving access to information, promoting digital literacy, and stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship.

Jamaica and European Union Launch Digital Jamaica Program to Accelerate Digital Transformation (2)

Senator Morris Dixon highlighted the advantages of a digitally skilled population, which includes enhanced innovation, increased competitiveness on the global stage, and the attraction of more investors. She emphasised that digital empowerment is not a luxury but a necessity that bridges gaps and fosters inclusivity and equality.

Expressing gratitude to the EU for funding the initiative, Senator Morris Dixon characterised the program as a testament to the enduring partnership and collaborative spirit between nations.

Helena Konig, Deputy Secretary General for Economic and Global Affairs at the EU, emphasised that Digital Jamaica is the first concrete, grant-funded multi-sector program of support for Jamaica’s digital transformation agenda following the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will collaborate with the Ministry of Education and Youth to integrate Jamaica’s National ICT Competency Framework for Teachers into the curricula of all publicly funded teacher training institutions. This strategic focus on education is crucial for Jamaica’s goal of becoming a knowledge-based society with a digitally competent workforce.

Digital Jamaica will also facilitate collaboration between the OPM and the Ministry of Education and Youth to provide Wide Area Network (WAN) and Wi-Fi connectivity to over 1000 public schools, including children’s homes, reducing social vulnerability to the digital divide, especially among students in unserved and underserved areas.

Sancia Bennett Templer, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, disclosed that €1.7 million of the program’s budget will be allocated to the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) to support the active participation of MSMEs in the digital transition. Given that MSMEs account for 60 to 70 percent of jobs in Jamaica, involving them in digital transitioning programs presents significant opportunities for widespread adoption of digital technologies, improving transactions, efficient goods delivery, access to financial services, and customer engagement.

To facilitate MSMEs’ digital transformation, the Ministry will provide training for the JBDC and business support services providers, enabling them to offer digital transformation training to MSMEs across the island.

Hon. Fayval Williams, Minister of Education and Youth, welcomed the Digital Jamaica program, recognising its alignment with the government’s efforts to enable citizens to develop new capabilities, ranging from basic digital literacy to advanced competencies in data science and coding. The program holds potential benefits for in-service teachers, trainee teachers, and aspiring educators, expanding career prospects for students in the technology field.

Digital Jamaica, the first bilateral EU Global Gateway Flagship Program in the Caribbean, aligns with the EU’s Global Gateway strategy, which aims to strengthen digital, energy, and transport sectors, as well as health, education, and research systems worldwide.

Malawi Government Launches Program to Provide Free Internet Access in Public Facilities

In an effort to address the issue of limited internet access despite affordable data plans, the Malawian government has initiated a program to offer free internet access in all public facilities. This move aims to alleviate the challenges faced by students in schools and healthcare professionals in public health facilities, among others.

Previously, the lack of universal internet access in Blantyre City, southern Malawi, had posed significant obstacles, particularly for students who struggled to access teaching and learning materials. However, with the implementation of the free internet project three months ago, public facilities, including schools, can now connect online at no cost, enabling seamless learning experiences for students.

Students at Chichiri secondary school expressed their satisfaction with the availability of free internet, highlighting how it has improved their understanding of lessons. They now have the opportunity to search for additional information and gain a clearer understanding of various topics.

Similarly, healthcare professionals at the Queen Elizabeth Central, a major referral hospital in Malawi, are grateful for the newfound access to the internet. They can now engage with medical specialists abroad, seeking guidance on administering new drugs and vaccines. Additionally, medical journals can be readily accessed and downloaded for professional use.

The government’s initiative aims to connect a wide range of public facilities, including schools, courts, police stations, prisons, hospitals, and markets, to the internet. Currently, approximately 500 public facilities are participating in the program, utilising Wi-Fi connectivity. The Digital Malawi Programme, implemented in collaboration with the World Bank, seeks to drive digital transformation across the country.

The success of this initiative heavily relies on ensuring minimal or no financial burden for users. At the beginning of 2023, 75% of Malawians did not use the internet, as indicated by Malawi’s 2023 digital report. The government hopes that this number will significantly decrease, empowering individuals from all walks of life.

Despite Malawi being the most affordable African country for data, with 1GB costing only $0.38 (€ 0.35) in 2023, many people still face barriers to online access. Limited access to hardware, such as smartphones, laptops, and computers, further exacerbates the issue. However, the government has yet to address this aspect of the problem.

With hundreds of public facilities already benefiting from free internet access, the Malawian government aims to expand the program and advocate for reduced data charges by mobile phone companies in the country. Malawi’s involvement in the Diplomatic Data Corridors project, along with neighbouring countries Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Namibia, aims to make internet access more affordable for all.

In summary, the government’s initiative to provide free internet access in public facilities is a significant step toward bridging the digital divide in Malawi. By facilitating improved educational opportunities and enhancing communication between healthcare professionals, this program aims to drive digital transformation and empower individuals across the country.


Source: DW

Ghana and South Africa Announce Visa-Free Travel for Ordinary Passport Holders

In a significant development, the governments of Ghana and South Africa have reached an agreement to implement a visa waiver regime for holders of ordinary passports. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration in Ghana made this announcement in a statement released on Friday.

According to the statement, the visa waiver agreement between the two countries will come into effect on November 1, 2023. Under this agreement, travellers with ordinary passports will be able to transit through, depart from, and stay in both Ghana and South Africa for a maximum period of ninety (90) days without the need for a visa. However, it’s important to note that this arrangement does not permit individuals to engage in any form of employment during their stay.

The Ministry advised the travelling public to take note of this development, as it will greatly facilitate travel between the two countries and enhance the ease of movement for ordinary passport holders.

In a separate statement, the South African High Commission in Ghana clarified that after the 90-day stay, ordinary passport holders will be required to apply for a visa to enter South Africa. This means that individuals must adhere to the visa requirements once their permitted stay duration has expired.

This visa waiver agreement between Ghana and South Africa is expected to strengthen bilateral relations and promote tourism, business, and cultural exchanges between the two nations. It will provide greater convenience and flexibility for ordinary passport holders travelling for various purposes.

Both governments expressed their commitment to the successful implementation of this visa waiver regime, which will contribute to fostering closer ties and cooperation between Ghana and South Africa.

Ghana and South Africa Announce Visa-Free Travel for Ordinary Passport Holders (2)