My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: GOJ Parliamentarians upgraded to Microsoft Surface Tablets and GovNET Wide Area Network - Minister Paulwell efforts to reduce paper may accelerate Jamaican Tablet Adoption

Friday, November 2, 2012

GOJ Parliamentarians upgraded to Microsoft Surface Tablets and GovNET Wide Area Network - Minister Paulwell efforts to reduce paper may accelerate Jamaican Tablet Adoption

“We can save money - and the environment - by cutting paper waste. It is amazing to see how much paper we use in Government on a daily basis. By incorporating ICTs we can reduce, even eliminate the need for paper altogether”

Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell at Wyndham Kingston Hotel on Tuesday October 30th 2012 during the LIME Government Solutions Forum

Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell is kicking and dragging the Jamaican Parliament into the future, whether the members are computer savvy or even up to speed in the latest trends in Computing by adopting Tablets as stated in the article “Parliament ICT Bound”, published Wednesday, 31 October 2012 09:41 by Douglas McIntosh, The Jamaica Information Service.

Thankfully, they all agree to the much needed upgrade, as it strikes at the heart of the GOJ’s (Government of Jamaica) main problem; its bureaucracy built on mountains of paper.

This is the fulfillment of a promise made earlier on Wednesday September 5th 2012 at a Scholarship Presentation Ceremony at Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica Headquarters in New Kingston as noted in the article “Technology Ministry to Embark on Tablet Computer Project”, published Friday, 07 September 2012 11:04 by Douglas McIntosh, The Jamaica Information Service.

Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell  is not only recommending an upgrade to Tablets, but also to the GOJ’s (Government of Jamaica) Computing Infrastructure by building out a GovNet (Government Wide Area Network) to seamlessly interconnect all Government Ministries as stated in the article “Jamaican lawmakers to be allocated Tablet computers”, published Wednesday October 31, 2012, The Jamaica Gleaner .

The announcement was made by Minister Paulwell at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel on Tuesday October 30th 2012AD during the LIME Government Solutions Forum with a theme dubbed “Solutions that Enable Public Sector Transformation”. The Government is clearly taking its cue from the need to streamline itself and cut back on its paper-driven Bureaucracy which is an impediment to efficient work.

Not only that, but it’s wasteful, as the amount of paper used in Parliament is phenomenal. Albeit no specific figures exist, based on Estimates of Expenditure March 2013, if it’s more JA$200,000 per month, that’s basically the salary for a Telecoms Engineer vanishing down the drain every month! Interestingly, a lot of GOJ officials also fly abroad back and forth to meetings abroad with large amounts of documents during negotiations with other foreign Governments.

Thus, amusingly, this measure will also reduce the amount of GOJ Documents on flights and has hand luggage much in the same way US Airlines, Continental Airlines as explained in my blog article entitledUS Airlines Pilots endorse the Apple iPad - Tessanne Chin's Hideaway in the PaperLess Revolutionand US Air Force Pilots as reported in U.S. Air Force to spend $9M on iPads for flight manual reboot”, published March 2, 2012 1:51 PM PST by Josh Lowensohn, CNET News are reducing their on-board documents via using the Apple iPad!

The full Plan to wean the GOJ off its addiction to paper is as follows:

1.      Use of Tablet Computers to eliminate the need to print and copy paper
2.      Implementation of the GovNET with both Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) and Ethernet connectivity

Telecom Provider LIME and Triple Play Provider FLOW, it seems may be tapped for the contract to build the GovNET, most likely sporting Fiber Optic Connectivity between the various GOJ Ministries and Offices with Ethernet and Wi-Fi Connectivity for Laptops and Tablets within the grounds of these buildings.

This as Telecom Provider LIME and Triple Play Provider FLOW are already involved in the JA$543 million project funded via the UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited) to build a 100MBps capable Fiber Optic based Intranet and connect some three hundred (300) High Schools and surrounding communities to the Internet as stated in my blog article entitled “LIME, FLOW and the $JA543-million Internet plan - Ebony and Ivory”.

Thus same fund is also being tapped to purchase the Tablets and build GovNET and in fact, may be merely an extension of the original idea! Looks like the teachers will be connected to the Government by more than just the Blackberries the Ministry of Education had planned in August 2011AD to give teachers to aid easier communication as noted in my blog article entitled “RIM Blackberry steps up to 1.2GHz and Faster Browser - QNX and Qualcomm Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Microsoft will definitely be tapped for the procurement of the Windows 8, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Surface Tablet as slyly hinted in the article “Microsoft re-imagines Windows software”, published Friday, October 26, 2012 By Paul Rodgers Business Editor, The Jamaica Observer. This despite early review that suggest many may find the new Touch-centric interface confusing as noted in the article entitled “Early look at Windows 8 baffles consumers”, published Monday October 22, 2012, The Jamaica Gleaner.

This latest GOJ Project has me excited, as it suggests that for the first time, the GOJ might be getting more advanced hardware than even the Local Telecom Providers and Private Sector!

Based on my sources, the Local Telecom Providers and Private Sector still use Blackberries and Laptops and are yet to move to smartphones and Tablets for its Management and Staff. There is also the possibility of employment for Jamaicans to work as Network Administrators and Computer Repair Technicians to maintain the GovNET.

I say this as earlier on Friday October 12th 2012AD, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security had published an article entitled “Labour ministry seeks Electrical Engineers, Computer Technicians”, published Friday October 12, 2012 9:15 am, The Jamaica Gleaner seeking Electrical Engineers and Computer Technicians. As these skills are already abroad in abundance, it can only be related to some form of Local Employment, the main reason I even sent in an application

I’m in the market for a better job in my field and I am non-too crazy about travelling or working in the US of A or even Canada, my dream home.

The Minister’s quotes on the GOJ usage of paper is telling, quote: “In Parliament, for instance, the sheer volume of paperwork and documents that each parliamentarian has to handle on a weekly basis is a cost we really do not need to maintain. If, for instance, all those documents were transmitted electronically, the savings would be significant……..In that particular regard, we do have a plan. This plan, I am heartened to know, has support from both sides of the House, and that is to provide each member with a Tablet computer. This will not only allow us to move large volumes of information more quickly and effectively, it allows us to save lots of paper.”

Good to know too that both sides of the Parliament support this Plan, which on the face of it sounds an awful lot like an idea that a friend of mine from UWI (University of the West Indies) Keisha Josephs-Morrison proposed to me in 3rd Year in the Second Semester 2008AD to go paperless. So aggressive was her argument based on her experience working in a NYS (National Youth Service) sponsored Summer Job at the Postal Service and seeing mounds of paper that could easily be digitized, that she pretty much had me sold from the beginning, leaving me little leeway to defend having paper.

Her ideas from the arguement, which I distilled into a pair of my blog articles entitledProject JosephOS - centralized database of all Government documents” and “GOJ and Project JosephOS Requeim - Open Source Linux Penguin in Happy Feet” pitched the idea of not only computers to go paperless, but also Linux Distribution Software for a Centralized Server, with GOJ Documents accessible via computers connected to a Private Intranet.

Thus Project JosephOS (Keisha Joseph’s Open Source Initiative) was born, based on the fact that Miss Joseph’s family heritage can be traced back to the ancient Scribe Josephus, who introduced the use of leather or Vellum in the making of scrolls to give them a longer shelf life and thus reduce the costs of frequent re-writing of Paper based scrolls every few years as they deteriorated. It’s due to him that we have the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in such an excellent state of preservation to act as evidence of the validity of the Bible.

Granted, the current GOJ Plan retains the idea of using a Centralized Servers with a Linux Distribution Server OS (Operating System) as mentioned by the Minister of Science, Technology Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell. Their Plan gets a technology upgrade by using Tablets as a means of combating the GOJ exorbitant usage of paper.

Linux Distributions such as Red Hat, Debian, SuSe or even Mandrake are best, with Server Hardware being provided by Dell would make the GovNET Network fast and secure from the prying eyes of the US Government and Rogue Hackers, as Linux Servers are notoriously hard to hack.

Not to mention cheaper, as Open Source OS can be easily sourced online or from Dell’s Partner, Canonical, makers of Ubuntu as noted my Geezam blog article entitled “HP and Web OS - 2011 is the Year of the Linux on PC”. Most likely the Ministers and GOJ Senior Civil Servants will be given Microsoft Surface Professional Tablets running Windows 8 and the latest version of Microsoft Office as I had reported in my blog articles entitled Microsoft debuts Windows 8 with new Surface Tablets - PixelSense rebranding as the Dark Knight Rises to defeat PC World” and  Microsoft re-imagines Windows software”, published Friday, October 26, 2012 By Paul Rodgers Business Editor, The Jamaica Observer.

The Network Administrators and Sys Op being given Laptops Dual bootable in Windows XP Professional SP3 and Ubuntu; two (2) of the most stable OS to have on any Laptop for a Network Administrator!

This as the Microsoft currently has a contract with the GOJ to supply them with Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office Productivity software as they have been paying Microsoft Licensing fees to use their software since 2011 as noted in my blog articles entitled Gov't to pay JA$600 million to renew software licenses”, published Wednesday, February 16, 2011, The Jamaica Observer.

Thus there will be a logical continuance of this partnership with the GOJ via the newly minted Microsoft Surface Tablet, which launched officially on Friday October 26th 2012 as stated officially by Microsoft themselves in “Microsoft Surface Now Available at Microsoft Retail Stores”, published October 26, 2012, Microsoft News Center.

It comes with an integrated kickstand and Keyboard option that make them suitable for some members of Parliament not comfortable without a physical Keyboard and may not be too crazy about remembering to walk with a stylus as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to make a Stylus for your Apple iPad or Capacitive-Touch Device”.

Sorry Apple, but Apple iPad’s lack of Productivity Tools such as Microsoft Office and the GOJ’s previous contractual commitments to use Microsoft software make this an easy call. The Apple iPad lack all the above things the Microsoft Surface Tablet possesses. Functionality and portability are the main attributes of the Microsoft Surface, a significant improvement on the idea of a Tablet as offered by the Apple iPad.

The Apple iPad it seems is only good enough to be a gift in the UK for British Prime Minister David Cameron from Apple as noted in the article “From Cupertino with love: British prime minister declares iPad gift”, published October 25, 2012 9:18 AM PDT by Zack Whittaker, CNET News and “Angry Birds fan David Cameron accepts free iPad from Apple despite saying he was not happy about global firms avoiding tax”, published 25 October 2012 UPDATED: 16:06 GMT  By Matt Chorley, Mail Online Political Editor, The Daily Mail.

More importantly, the fact it’s packing Microsoft Office Productivity Software makes it a Tablet to be desired as argued in my blog articles entitled Microsoft debuts Windows 8 with new Surface Tablets - PixelSense rebranding as the Dark Knight Rises to defeat PC World”.

This would explain the long lines in the US of A when the Table went on sale as noted in the article “At the moment, Microsoft Surface is hot”, published October 27, 2012 12:48 PM PDT by Brooke Crothers, CNET News and “Wait a minute. Is this an Apple store?”, published October 26, 2012 1:15 PM PDT by Shara Tibken, CNET News.

A phenomenon that’s only typical of an Apple Product launch, it also had another Apple-like moment: the cheaper Microsoft Surface RT, which retails at US$499 is now out of stock at some of Microsoft’s Retail Stores as well as online as reported in the article “Microsoft Surface $499 model 'out of stock' online”, published November 1, 2012 1:27 PM PDT by Brooke Crothers, CNET News.

But in case anyone thinks this is the GOJ just taking it cues from my blog article alone, their move has basis in best practice in other countries elsewhere. In December 2010, long before Tablet came on the Scene, the US Government under direction of the Obama Administration had awarded a Google-Unisys partnership some US$6.7 billion in a contract to replace email and documents usage at the General Services Administration (GSA) with their Cloud-based solutions as stated in the article “Google scores big federal Government contract”, published December 2, 2010 9:07 AM PST by Lance Whitney, CNET News- Digital Media.

Back then, I’d speculated that they would also be getting Google Chrome OS powered Cr-48 Chromebooks sporting a revamped Google Docs and Google Mail (Gmail) as explained in detail in my blog article entitled “Google Chrome Press Event - Naked Gun 33 and a Third The Final Insult”.

I’ll admit I haven’t followed up on that contract, but since then both the Google ChromeBook and Gmail have been upgraded to make Cloud Computing a reality as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Google releases revamped Chromebooks and ChromeBox empowering Mobile Computing in the Clouds” and Kelroy’s Geezam blog article entitled “Google Introduces new $249 Chromebook”.

Truly, folks, the Apple iPad and the concept of Mobile Computing now copied by Microsoft in the form of the Microsoft Surface Tablet is now killing off Laptops, PC’s and the soon-to-be-extinct Mouse even here in Jamaica as I had prognosticated in my Geezam blog article entitled “How the Apple iPad killed Ultrabooks, Printing and the Mouse as the World Rediscovers Tablets”.

This as if Minister Paulwell successfully gets “Project JosephOS” going by the First Quarter of 2013, he may jumpstart a trend by Jamaicans towards Tablets. Very much the same way that Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller became the first person in Jamaica to officially receive an Apple iPhone 4S as a gift to her from Telecom Provider LIME  as stated in the article “Portia gets new iPhone 4S”, published Thursday January 12, 2012 10:25 am, The Jamaica Gleaner and “PHOTOS: PM Simpson Miller is first in Jamaica to receive iPhone 4S”, published Thursday, 12 January 2012 11:08, The Jamaica Information Service.

This event may have been in fact the true catalyst behind the trend towards smartphones in Jamaica as noted in my blog article entitled “Blackberry popularity wanes as Jamaicans go smartphones - Android and Apple's Smartphone Revolution” and my Geezam blog article entitled “Apple iPhone boosts Jamaican smartphone usage as BB goes Chapter 11 Bankruptcy”.

A kind of Keeping Up with the Kardashians (TV Series 2007– ) i.e. Government of Jamaica among the Wealthy and affluent in Jamaican being eschewed as being a sign of having arrived in Society which in turn is copied by Private Sector, then Entertainers and finally ordinary Jamaicans.

Thus the GOJ’s adoption of Tablets may also push Local Telecom Providers and Private Sector companies to adopt Tablets, namely the Microsoft Surface and thus ultimately drive Tablet Adoption among everyday Jamaicans by December 2013!

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