It's a digital world and we had better get going

Sunday, April 08, 2012    

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The world is moving, like a freight train, towards full digitalisation and, like every other country, Jamaica must jump aboard as soon as possible or be swept up in its wake, kicking and screaming if necessary.

For that matter, we were happy to see that the Government is readying itself to lead the charge, as it should and must. Information Minister Sandrea Falconer last week announced that the Cabinet would be asked to declare 2015 as the transition year to digital switchover.

We can't stress enough how critical it is for the nation to get on board the digital programme long before 2015 and we hope that Senator Falconer and the National Digital Switchover Committee do not believe that they have three years before they have to step up their public education programme.

One of the first dangers that developing societies like Jamaica face is massive dumping of outmoded analogue equipment and appliances from First World manufacturers and retailers. We expect to see the appearance of these appliances, especially television sets, at bargain basement prices.

It happened in the early 1980s when Jamaica converted from black and white to colour television at the then Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation.

Many Jamaicans already have digital TV sets, although there is limited enjoyment until programme transmissions go fully digital. Some cable companies currently offer a limited number of high definition channels.

One of Senator Falconer and her committee's most immediate tasks, of course, is a digital switchover study which will determine Jamaica's readiness and carrying capacity for the switchover.

They will also examine public policy considerations, very important in order to avoid confusion and potential lawsuits. We are also pleased to see that among the considerations is access and usability by persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, as well impact on the environment, issues which are often an after-thought.

Of course, we are left sanguine by the fact that Jamaica does not have the money to finance the switchover programme and will have to look to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for funding to establish the Digital Switchover project unit.

In this respect, we must appreciate the assistance of the ITU, as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which is supporting our Joint Board of Teacher Education and Ministry of Education in a media literacy project aimed at keeping the public informed about digitalisation, through the Broadcasting Commission.

Senator Falconer put her finger on the button when she noted that: "Our engagement must therefore be focused around getting public input and ensuring Jamaicans will anticipate and take full advantage of the broad and enriched media experience that digital transmission brings. This must be characterised, of course, by high technical quality; new features delivered through utilisation of multimedia applications; and high levels of interactivity in step with the Jamaican culture, demand and vision."

The broad parameters have been outlined. Now it's time to do the work. Otherwise, 2015 will come and pass, with Jamaica lagging behind the world.





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