Columns

Put it in writing, please

Tamara Scott-Williams

Sunday, July 22, 2012    

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After reading this paper's interview with former prime minister the Most Honourable Edward Seaga last week, I thought he appeared more than a little crotchety in so far as Jamaica at 50 is concerned, but since we're "not going there" with this column, at least for the next few weeks, I won't join that rain dance.

What I will support however — one thing I most definitely agree with in regard to our Jubilee celebrations — is his statement: "I am still waiting to see what is going to be on. I would like to have seen something distributed, publicised, that this is going to happen on this day, that day etc, etc, and this is the programme for the period... I can't find that programme." That's a fact.

Like me, Mr Seaga would perhaps prefer the hard copy, the substantive pamphlet or brochure that we can keep close at hand as a reminder of things to come with the celebration, and also keep as a souvenir long after the events have passed. I have friends and family coming to the Rock and I am at great pains to tell them definitively what's going on. I know, anecdotally, that there's a street party in every town and there will be a Jubilee Village at Independence Park. And I get the distinct feeling that the Jamaica House event in London during the Summer Olympics will really carry the swing.

There our celebrations will "reach a crescendo between August 5 and August 6 with the highlight being a special two-way broadcast between Jamaica and London, to witness the next great moment of the country's history, which is winning the Olympics 100 metre men's finals". That the success of our athletes — Bolt, Blake and Powell — will play such an integral role in our 50th celebrations is daunting, to say the least.

Whatever it is, I am sure that Jamaica 50 Secretariat Project Director Robert Bryan's assurance that the events are being well publicised will include the fact that there is information online — on Twitter, Facebook, various websites including http://jam50.org/events/month/, http://www.visitjamaica.com/Jamaica50.aspx as well as social networks et al — but that would be of little comfort for those of us fuddy-duddies that want an official printed calendar of events rather downloading something from the fleeting, can't-tie-me-down, ever-changing dynamic that is the Internet.

And it's not just us stuck-in-the-dark-ages folk who might want to see flyers in the supermarkets, pharmacies, at the bar and in church and being handed out on every street corner.

In fact, if Julian Robinson, the state minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, is to be believed, a whopping 62 per cent of Jamaicans might want the schedule of events in a hard copy format for, according to him, only 15 per cent of Jamaican households have Internet access, says a survey conducted last year by Dr Hopeton Dunn, while only 38 per cent of Jamaicans use the Internet at least once per day.

To correct that imbalance the minister has announced an initiative that will promote the use of technology: a "wide area broadband network to be funded by the Universal Access Fund at a cost of $543 million that will provide access in every school, home and office", he says. This network will provide high-speed Internet (100MBps capable fibre optics) to interconnect approximately 300 institutions including schools, public libraries and post offices in the northern and southern segments of the island.

That the minister has failed to address the fact that our Internet penetration lags woefully behind other countries in the region mainly because we can little afford computers or Internet service makes me wonder how this investment will really benefit the people of this country. But I'm "not going there", not now, not at least for the next few weeks.

The point is this: We need to see in black and white, and red, green and orange the list of national events that celebrate this great occasion of our 50th year of Independence. And when the party's over and the computer's crashed, we can still paste the flyer in our scrapbook and recall this momentous event for years to come.

scowicomm@gmail.com

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