My Interview with the Jamaica Technology and Digital Alliance
How would you describe the tech space in Jamaica?
Technology in Jamaica is at an all time high. The pandemic accelerated the digital plans for most companies and for the government.
Tell us about the Jamaica Computer Society?
Tell us about the Jamaica Technology & Digital Alliance?
In 2021 the Jamaica Computer Society, which has been the leading technology advocacy organization in Jamaica for over 47 years, joined with the Jamaica Information Technology and Services Alliance to become the Jamaica Technology and Digital Alliance.
The JTDA’s vision is Our Vision is to enable people and businesses by providing access, influence, and empowerment through technology. We bring together the stakeholders in technology to collaborate, learn, and grow.
What technology improvements are needed in Jamaica?
Technology continues to reshape every aspect of our lives in Jamaica. To support the growth of technology in Jamaica there needs to be a combination of robust, modern govern policies that balance the rights of citizens with the ability to introduce technological change quickly and efficiently. Education and training also underpin the ability to improve our levels of adoption of technology across all industries.
What is being done to bridge the digital divide?
JTDA continues its long history of encouraging education as a fundamental pillar in creating opportunities in technology for all Jamaicans. In recent years the JTDA chapters overseas have helped bring computers and other technology donated by the diaspora to deploy in schools in need. JTDA members serve on advisory boards for government and funding agencies to advocate for increased access to technology and education opportunities for all Jamaicans.
What can be done to encourage tech startups?
Startups do not need to be encouraged – Jamaica has many early stage companies led by smart people. The challenge is how to create the conditions for them to succeed, especially in the competitive global market. This starts with advocating government for the correct legal and regulatory environment including creating conditions where capital investment in early stage companies is more readily available. Startup success is also closely linked to how well the ecosystem is integrated – how educational institutions, government, business, technology professionals, and startups can connect and collaborate to find opportunities and markets. This is the key role that JTDA plays in Jamaica – bringing all the right stakeholders together.
Is there a brain drain or brain surplus in the tech sector?
There is a massive global shortage of experienced technology talent, and Jamaica is in a particularly challenging position. Migration of talent has always been a challenge in the technology sector in Jamaica, however the global move towards remote work during the pandemic, companies have started recruiting experienced technology talent from Jamaica more aggressively. Migration is no longer needed for talent to be “drained”, leading to significant challenges retaining talent to grow Jamaica.
The JTDA will be addressing this critical challenge by engaging with stakeholders throughout 2022.
What can persons in the diaspora do to contribute to the tech space?
Organizations in Jamaica looking to promote non-profit programs or initiatives can list them on the JTDA’s soon to be released Tech Alliance Fund Platform (https://techalliancefund.jtda.org/). This allows members of the diaspora to browse through projects and initiatives taking place in Jamaica and contribute to them directly. Diaspora members can also participate in our chapters to collaborate with other members of the diaspora to help with programs such as mentorship or connecting Jamaican technology firms to overseas opportunities.
How can Jamaica be the technology hub of the Caribbean?
At the JTDA we feel that Jamaica is already the technology hub of the Caribbean. The attendance from across the region at technology events such as BizTech demonstrates that for technology, Jamaica is the place to be. Initiatives by the Global Services Sector to push more aggressively into technology based services will continue to push for a larger and better educated population when it comes to technology. Even as the hub of technology in the Caribbean, the larger challenge remains – how do we compete with larger, more established technology hubs not just in the US and Europe but also in emerging technology hubs in Central and South America and other regions. To truly serve as a hub, Jamaica must bring all technology stakeholders together to work as one – this is where the work of organizations such as the JTDA is critical.
What digital transformation initiatives are taking place?
There are digital transformation initiatives happening across the island throughout business and government, and there has recently been a strong push for Micro, Small, and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSME) to transform. The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) runs a number of programs including the “Go Digital Voucher” program that provides Micro and Small Businesses grants to implement transformational technology projects. The JTDA has also been working diligently to connect MSMEs with technology vendors that can help them with their digital transformation through the Go Digital Marketplace (https://godigitaljm.com/).
Anything else you would like to add?
These are exciting times for those involved in technology in Jamaica, but to truly achieve our potential we need to speak with a united voice. We encourage you and your readers to actively participate in the JTDA’s efforts to grow our industry.