THE Government is to introduce a Data Protection Act this year which will regulate the use of personal information compiled on Jamaicans.
Making the announcement in the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives recently, minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Julian Robinson, said the Act will seek to protect the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data and the regulation of the collection, processing, storing, use and disclosure of certain information relating to individuals.
"There is a need for a more uniformed, robust and clear mandate to protect privacy and personal information," Robinson said, adding that the Government will be establishing a single Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Regulator by 2013/14.
This will involve the fusion of the telecommunications regulatory functions of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), the radio spectrum technical functions of the Broadcasting Commission and the spectrum management functions of the Spectrum Management Authority.
The junior minister also announced that the Government will be boosting training and office space as it looks to tap into the Business Processes Outsourcing (BPO) industry to create 15,000 additional jobs in the ICT sector over the next four years.
BPO refers to back office outsourcing which includes internal business functions such as human resources, finance, accounting and front office outsourcing, as well as customer-related services such as contact centre services.
Robinson said that the HEART Trust/NTA is developing specialised BPO training programmes, up to the equivalent of level three certification.
"Even more encouraging, as part of the Career Advancement Programme (CAP), HEART is going to include business processes training modules for students who are a part of the programme," he said.
Robinson stated that the main challenge facing the Government in the ICT sector is the lack of commercially available space in the right locations.
The proposed 15,000 new jobs will require approximately 750,000 square feet of new space which must be close to labour pools and transport links. He said that the Factories Corporation of Jamaica is going to be providing 100,000 square feet of space by next year.
The global BPO industry was valued at US$680 billion at the end of 2011. Estimates are that the Latin America and the Caribbean market will be worth US$5 billion by 2013.
Robinson also addressed accruable benefits which the digital applications sector can yield for the economy, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises. He said that the "apps economy", as it is commonly known — one of the latest and fastest-growing markets globally — has the potential to generate significant earnings and job opportunities for Jamaicans, particularly young people.
He explained that the creation and marketing of digital applications is worth US$20 billion and employs half-a-million persons in the United States alone.
He said this augurs well for Jamaica's small and medium-sized enterprise interests, comprising 78 per cent of the stakeholders operating in the apps economy. Additionally, he said a number of companies undertaking development of applications within their operations outsource this activity to small entities.
The junior minister also said that based on the content of the 2012 Information Technology Report, a 10 per cent increase in digitisation would result in a 0.60 per cent increase in per capita Gross Domestic Product; a 0.84 per cent reduction in unemployment; and a six per cent increase in a country's score on the global innovation index.