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Jamaica’s Digital Divide

October 20, 2012

Image courtesy of microsoft.com

Newsweek’s decision to close down their print operations and go completely digital would perhaps be to some another signal of death of the print. It however raises the question of information access to those who still do not have access to the Internet. The results of the recent Census in Jamaica indicated that majority of homes still do not have access to the Internet. While smartphones have helped to reduce the gap between those who have access and those who do not, studies show that there are wide differences between various groups such as rural and urban dwellers. If all the major newspapers in Jamaica were to follow in Newsweek’s path then the majority of householders would not have access to this important source of information.

Jamaica is a developing country with very talented individuals in a variety of areas. More of this talent can however be tapped if more persons had ready access to the information they needed to better themselves. They would also have a wider platform on which to express their creativity through access to a wider audience via the Internet as well. Individuals could increase their income and the nation as a whole could derive economic benefits. With so many persons leaving tertiary institutions with limited job prospects, perhaps it is time for the government of Jamaica to actively seek ways of increasing Internet access to more of its citizens. This would give more persons the ability to take advantage of income-earning opportunities on the Internet.

A number of persons are already doing this such as Shalette East of GoGSAT.com. In sharing her personal experience she declared that there are millions of dollars to be made from online education. The number of online education websites has grown, but what about those students who do not have access to them because of lack of connectivity? They are being deprived of the benefits of these resources that can help them to improve their performance in school and give them better opportunities for fulfilling their potential.

If the situation does not change the gap between the “information haves” and “have nots” will continue to get worse and the development of the nation as a whole will continue to be lopsided. Commendable efforts have been made in some areas such as the provision of broadband Internet access to schools through the Universal Access Fund. More however still needs to be done to broaden the access to ordinary Jamaicans.

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