My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Jamaica's 700MHz Spectrum Auction fails to attract bidders on Friday October 11 2013 - Jamaicans Lack interest in Broadband Internet and no Telecom Regulator for the Sector

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jamaica's 700MHz Spectrum Auction fails to attract bidders on Friday October 11 2013 - Jamaicans Lack interest in Broadband Internet and no Telecom Regulator for the Sector

Friday October 11th 2013 was supposed to be the day for the submission of Bids for the 700MHz Spectrum Auction as I’d noted in my blog article entitledStakeholder Consultation Forum on the 700 MHz Spectrum Auction - How the Spectrum Auction process for Band 17 and Band 13 of the 700 Mhz Band Works”.


Sad to say, this didn’t go as planned, as no one, despite the interest shown at the Stakeholder Consultation Forum on the 700MHz Spectrum Auction at the Jamaica Conference Room in Caucus Room 2 at the Jamaica Conference Center on Tuesday September 10th 2013, no one submitted a bid by the deadline on of 2 pm on Friday October 11th 2013 as stated in the article “700MHz auction pulls zero interest, Paulwell disappointed”, published Saturday October 12, 2013 8:01 am, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Reason for the Lack of Bidders – Lack of interest in the Internet shown by Jamaicans

So now that the disappointment has set in despite the interest show, why didn’t anyone submit a bid?  The answer is rather soberingly simple: it’s not the money albeit that’s a big factor as originally argued in my blog article entitled No Bidders thus far for the 700MHz Spectrum Auction for 4G LTE - CAPEX concerns as Serious Man of Steel Investors are needed to assist Jamaica to become a more Connected Society”.

Rather, it is the lack of interest in Broadband Internet shown by Jamaicans, which potential investor, including the present pair of Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider LIME. Jamaicans, still, even in 2013, use the Internet mainly for Social Networking, based on the GITR  - Global Information Technology Report (2010-2011) and the Dr. Hopeton Dunn Caribbean ICT Indicators and Broadband Survey in 2011 as explained in my Geezam blog article entitled “Jamaica’s Low Net Penetration – Broadband Internet A Universal Right”.

This is the main problem bedeviling the spread of Broadband Internet in Jamaica and was the main problem the Mexicans at CLARO Jamaica had. Albeit they were interested in bringing Wireless Broadband to Jamaica, they realized a lot of Jamaicans simply didn’t have computers or even knew what the Internet was or what to use if for.

As such, some of our Cell Towers that were equipped with 3G Radios or BBU (Base Band Units) had to be eventually decommissioned and relocated elsewhere as there was simply not enough traffic in some areas where 3G Internet was located on the Tower to support even having that service in the area.

Since then subsequent GITR 2013 titled “Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World” continue to show that the same problems Jamaicans have with the cost of computers and even just interest in the use of Internet continues.

The most recent GITR 2013 titled “Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World” as stated in “Jamaica Dips In New IT Rankings”, published Wednesday April 24, 2013 by Steven Jackson, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner and “Jamaica's technology declines”, published Wednesday, April 13, 2011, the Jamaica Observer indicates that Jamaica has actually dipped 10 places down to 79th place due to:

1.      Low e-commerce
2.      Low availability of venture capital funding
3.      Low Internet penetration 

Thierry Geiger, co-author of the study GITR 2013 titled “Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World”, puts it into perspective by comparing us to the Nordic countries that are doing well and the prosperous Asian Tiger countries that also benefit from increased ICT, quote: “The Nordic countries, led by Sweden, continue to feature prominently in the ranking, with the lowest of them, Iceland, ranked at a still excellent 16th rank. The Asian Tigers are the other economies which, as a group, stand out. Singapore (2nd), Taiwan (6th), Korea (10th) and Hong Kong (12th) are among the most networked countries in the world. Another region of interest is the Middle East which, as a region, has made remarkable strides over the past few years in terms of adopting and using ICT. The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have all progressed in the ranking over. This is part of a massive effort by their respective governments to diversify away from commodities on which these economies very much depend”.

According to the GITR 2013 titled “Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World” published by the WEF (World Economic Forum) based in Switzerland, which surveyed 144 countries, Finland is ranked at pole position at No. 1 with Jamaica at 79thplace due to the following indexed scores:

1.         130 rankling for availability of Venture Capital funding
2.         124 raking foe on the e-participation index
3.         116 ranking for math and science education
4.         104 ranking for in mobile Broadband subscribers
5.         104 ranking for business to consumer Internet usage

Microsoft Jamaica Country Manager, Marcelle Andrea Smart, quote: “While Jamaica has adequate telecommunication infrastructure, consumers struggle to access its potential due to affordability. Mobile device penetration is high due to our smartphone access, yet the online penetration through these devices is low. Deployment of ICT solutions to support greater efficiencies in the public sector is low”.

In terms of Network Readiness, Jamaica scored 3.74 on the Network Readiness Index, versus 3.86 in the last GITR Report (2011-2012).The Network Readiness Index ranks countries based on:

1.      Usage by government, individuals and business
2.      Readiness among individuals, government and business
3.      The market, political and infrastructural environment.

Microsoft Jamaica Country Manager, Marcelle Andrea Smart had a mouthful to say with regards to our Network Readiness Index, as it indicates we're average and not fully using up what we do already have available, quote: “Jamaica is as information and technologically savvy as other countries but we need to ensure that a wider cross-section of society experiences this by pushing for greater Internet penetration and affordability. In addition to working to make sure there is an increased awareness of what technology can do here in Jamaica, we need to focus on making sure that once technology is more affordable or accessible that users know how to use it. Access to technology is only as powerful as the degree to which you can make use of it — so we work closely with SMEs as well as students in training them on how to use technology and software to realise their full potential”

Those Jamaicans in the 8% who do have access to Broadband Internet mainly use it for Social Networking, Downloading and Streaming, the latest trend to catch on with Jamaicans.

4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) can provide Wireless Broadband speeds of up to 100MBps, which may cost the customer as much as JA$10,000 per month initially. This, and the associated costs, drove them away. Jamaica just isn’t technologically mature enough to see the value of Broadband Internet enough to invest in Computers, Tablets, Laptops and smartphones and pay the price required for faster Broadband Internet.

e-Commerce is the Key – Jamaicans will like the ‘Net if they can catch money with it

But for the rest of Jamaica, lack of low cost Computer options, even the Tablets I’d predicted in my blog article above, make it difficult for the average middle income Minimum Wage earning Jamaicans, especially those living in the rural areas, to see the point of having the Internet unless they can use it to make money directly. This is the pragmatism of Jamaicans living in Rural Jamaica, the 90% of Jamaica that expanding Broadband Internet via 4G LTE targets; like animals and pets in the yard; unless they serve a purpose, there’s no need in keeping them.

To this end I’d begun a whole series of articles on ways in which Jamaicans can make money from the Internet on my personal blog. Most of these ideas revolve around Writing e-books and selling them via websites or blogs as well as Ghostwriting, buying and selling things online via an e-commerce website, such as e-books and even Stock Photography as summed up in my blog article entitled “How Jamaicans can make money from Stock Photography – Moneymaking from taking photos of the everyday Mundane”.

But you have to have a Credit Card or Scotia VISA Debit Card and a knowledge about Payment Gateways to validate and accept Credit Card Payments without looking as if you’re scamming your customer as stated in my blog article entitledHow Jamaicans can set up a Payment Gateway in order to process Credit Card purchases - E-Commerce the main Catalyst for Increasing Jamaica's Internet Penetration”.

Also, you have to have the skill to not only build a website but to also maintain it as well. Building and designing Apps and Video Games is also another revenue for making money from the Internet aside from Animation as described in my blog article entitled “Animation after KingstOOn - How to make a Video Game for PC, Smartphone and Tablet

Many Jamaicans simply are not that tech-savvy and the few that are will not build it for free. They’ll probably want to own the domain for the persons they’re building the website for, effectively making it possible for them to hijack your website and demand payment whenever they want for minor upgrades.

Knowledge Gap and Internet Usage – Chicken vs the Egg

Thus in order to make money online, you have to have knowledge and experience in HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and other web scripting language in setting up an e-commerce website and a Payment Gateway. Otherwise you’ll just end up online idling away on a Social Network, as most Jamaicans are prone to do.

Without the knowledge of how to build a website, designing smartphone apps and making money online, Jamaicans will continue to see having a computer or smartphones optimized for Internet access as being merely a “bling” accessory to indicate one’s social status as argued in my blog article entitled “Social Media backlash over Television Jamaica's decision to buy rights to NBC's The Voice - Power of the Middle Classes wielding Apple iPhones as FLOW AI is watching you”.

GOJ and Private Sector – Partners in e-Learning to enable us with Computing Knowledge

The GOJ (Government of Jamaica) as well as any Telecom Provider coming to Jamaica would have to prepare informative Videos as well as tutorial information on how Jamaicans can build websites or make apps for smartphone, the main reason for any Jamaican to use the Internet.

Some of those videos can be placed in the very Tablets that they plan to procure for the High Schools to deliver Education Materials and allow students to have experience in computing as stated in my blog article entitled “Minister Paulwell gives Parliamentarians and 20,000 Students in 30 Schools Tablets- Future in Science and Technology now rescued Indiana Jones and the Palace of Doom”.

Tablets are also being donated by various Private Sector companies and Tertiary instructions such as Telecom Provider Digicel, Telecom Provider LIME to make up for the GOJ shortfall or apparent lack of funding to provide Tablet for all High Schools.

JC (Jamaica College) has partnered with UWI (University of the West Indies) to extent the TEST (UWI Total eBook Solution Tablet) Program to provide 6th Form students with CSEC material on Tablets as stated in my blog article entitled “Jamaica College given Tablets and 16 CAPE Books under extension of UWI TEST Project - Sixth Form Students are Guinea Pigs for Tablets and e-books”.

Telecom Provider Digicel has also donated Tablets to Hampton Court High School as stated in my blog article entitled “Digicel partners with Cyber School Technology Solutions to provide 800 Tablets with CSEC Tutorial - Corporate Spirit spreading to help Schools get Tablets”.

Granted Tablets will result in e-book piracy as well as present an opportunity for writers of educational content to write e-books for High School and Tertiary level students as pointed out in my blog article entitled “How to become an e-book Publishing House via e-book Piracy - Tablets in Schools sets the Stage for Rampant e-book Piracy”.

But compared to the current low adoption of Mobile Computing in the form of Tablets and smartphones among Jamaican, any boost in their usage among the local population would be acceptable at this point in time!

What needs to be done – Internet as a Fundamental Right

Telecom Providers are also partially to blame for the low level of interest in Broadband Internet, as in the current economic climate, it becomes an easy call to spend money on food rather than on Internet Access, especially as it doesn’t make money for you. Telecom Providers need to make Voice and Data as one package on smartphones instead of being separate as is the case with Telecom Providers in the US of A.

More Corporate outreach and education as to how to use Broadband Internet to make money would justify in the minds of many Jamaicans how it benefits them. Telecom Providers need to realize that as Jamaicans, education as to where to find the resources online to make money is needed.

Since July 2013, IT professionals have formed themselves into a group called JITSA (Jamaica Information Technology and Services Alliance) in a bid to provide the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) with access to their expertise on matters relating to IT as stated in “Jamaican IT experts form alliance”, published Friday, July 12, 2013, The Jamaica Observer. This was recommended by Thierry Geiger noted that GOJ as well as Private Sector intervention are needed to boost Jamaica's ICT ranking

This urge of financial fulfillment is the primary justification for Internet adoption and should be the focus of their advertisement, not just Brand association via Charitable Events, Parties, Celebrities and Social Networking. Once Telecom Providers can do this, Jamaicans, no matter what the price for their Internet Access and a computer, would gladly get Broadband Internet and go online.

At that point, Science and Technology and a drive to educate oneself more about building and designing websites and blogs, making apps and building an e-commerce presence online would ramp up Broadband Adoption in Jamaica as the Internet would have more of a purpose than just education one’s children.

Mobile Computing and Regulation – Telecom Provider need to control Network Access

As it relates to Mobile Computing devices, there is also a need to prevent Jamaicans from buying unlocked smartphones. Instead, it should only be possible to get a smartphone under a 2 year contract or unlocked if purchased from a Telecom Provider as stated in my blog article entitled “Librarian of the Library of Congress makes smartphone unlocking Illegal - How Jamaica can benefit from the Safe Haven of MNP by banning unlocking of smartphones and Tablets”.

Something both Telecom Providers need to agree to as an influx of smartphones is on its way this Christmas 2013 as predicted in my blog article entitled “Samsung Galaxy smartphones and Blackberrys are tops on Jamaican Searches according to Google Trends - Importation Guide to Selling smartphone to Jamaicans”!

To this end to ensure all the above is being done by Telecom Providers, a Telecom Regulator is needed before another Auction will be successful. This is to not only regulate the Telecoms Sector but ensure that all these things are in place to reassure Telecom Providers that Jamaica has the interest in Broadband and is worth investing a build-out of infrastructure to support 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) for the next five (5) years!.

Part of what need to be in place is legislation to be passed to make Access to Telecoms and Broadband as a Right and Privilege to all Jamaicans, instead of just to a select few Jamaicans. This is in much the same way Water, Life and Freedom of Speech are Rights that Jamaican hold dear and are willing to fight for.

Stay Tuned to my blog as it relates to more information on the Spectrum Auction for the 700MHz Spectrum.
           

In the meantime you can download a *.pdf copy of the GITR 2013 titled “Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World” and Dr. Hopeton Dunn Caribbean ICT Indicators and Broadband Survey in 2011 at these links!
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