My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: International Girls in ICT Day - How Women can jump-Start Jamaican ICT Industry from Call Centers, Telecom Providers and NDA's

Saturday, June 7, 2014

International Girls in ICT Day - How Women can jump-Start Jamaican ICT Industry from Call Centers, Telecom Providers and NDA's

International Girls in ICT Day, which was observed on Thursday April 24th 2014, was implemented by UN's (United Nation) ITU (International Telecommunication Union) member states, under Plenipotentiary Resolution 70 (Guadalajara, 2010).

All this attention lavished on women and females in a bid to encourage more women and Girls to enter the Field of ICT (Information Technology and Computing) and Telecommunications in Jamaica and the rest of the World as stated in “Jamaica continues to support girls in ICT”, published Tuesday, April 29, 2014, The Jamaica Observer.

Supported this year by Telecom Provider LIME and SMA (Spectrum Management Authority), the long term aim of the observation of this day is to start getting girls at the High School level aware that, yes, careers do indeed exist in Science and Technology and that ICT (Information and Technology Sector) and is a readily available low hanging fruit they can pick.

This year, as they’d done the year before, the SMA opened their doors to a boatload of females from UTECH (University of Technology) and UWI (University of the West Indies) hoping to convince them that they can find rewarding careers in ICT, even having them meet a female Engineer.

So says SMA's Manager for Operating Systems and Special Project, Judith Marshall Anderson, who may have realized that this was the way to go after women from UTECH and UWI appeared blissfully unaware that such careers existed, quote: “What we plan to do is aim at younger girls [in high school] because some of the comments we've gotten from the university girls is that they weren't exposed earlier and didn't know there was a career in engineering in ICT. So we are thinking it would be good to have high school students so we can open their horizons.”

But how do women enter the ICT and Telecommunications when officially, it doesn’t exist, with most of the Training knowledge guarded by FDI (Foreign Direct Investors) and Companies? Worse, how do women make a difference in a field that’s shrouded in mystery and the level of Training available at colleges, Universities and Technical Training Institutions is nowhere akin to anything that exists in the Developing World?

ICT in Jamaica – Mainly Call Centers with Animation and Video Game Industry Stagnant

According to Chief Technical Director for the ICT Division in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Wahkeen Murray, ICT is a sausage-fest, hence the need to get girls to realize that they can drink milk too very easily in the Sciences, especially ICT as it is not just all Sausage, quote: “...So there's an emphasis being placed on girls in ICT, certainly from the ITU perspective. The message being communicated is that ICT is not a gender specific field or industry. The aim is to encourage governments in the region and across the world to focus more on women in ICT and how they can encourage greater involvement of girls in the field of ICT”

Who can blame them?

The main problem is this: we don't really have an ICT culture in Jamaica at all that promotes Open sharing of Information. It’s mostly a tech-centric Jamaica dominated by a few aggressive Uptown (read Kingston and St. Andrew) males working in the Telecoms Sector that’s easily mistaken for ICT who apparently think that travelling abroad to the USA, rattling off specs and watching Videos of Fast Cars on YouTube makes them “techies”.

Clearly the ICT Field needs a woman’s touch to remove the shroud of Secrecy that guards information that isn’t sensitive at all, just merely being the means by which ICT and Telecom Providers make money.

After all, the Jamaican population needs to be empowered not only by the UNCHR (United Nation Charter of Human Rights) as it relates to a Right to Broadband enshrined in the constitution, but also with the knowledge of how to make money online as concluded in my blog article entitled “Digicel and LIME's 4G LTE Adoption in Jamaica – Budget Tablets with Microsoft Productivity Software spark Wireless Broadband Revolution”.

Add to that generally well known fact that most references to ICT really refer to Call Centers. Depending on the account that you’re placed on, there may be more women than men working in Call Centers.

This is because their voices sound more pleasant on the phone than a male and easier for Call Center Managers to handle without having to resort to stapling people’s pockets as stated in as stated in my blog article entitled How to find work in Jamaica at Call Centers - Why Paper Free Environment prevent Scamming and Attract more BPO's”. 

Aside from Call Centers, which is really a part of the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Sub-Sector of ICT, the other sub-fields that exist in ICT and Telecoms that are viable are as follows:

1.      Server Maintenance
2.      Computer Hardware and Software Maintenance
3.      LAN (Local Area Network) Networking
4.      Telecom Switching Engineering

These fields, however, are not ICT, but rather support services that exist within companies to perform necessary Communications related Functions that involved Computers or other devices in a Network. In essence they’re basically Telecoms Services with an ICT slant in their functionality.

Truth be told, there is no real pure ICT Sector in Jamaica focused on purely computer related ventures such as:

1.      Application Software Design
2.      Computer and Network Design
3.      App Design for smartphones and Tablets
4.      Animation
5.      Video Game Programming

Rather, there is a Telecoms Sector that’s easily mistaken for an ICT Sector, due to their overlapping functionalities. Especially as Telecom Providers such as LIME and Digicel are now effectively ISP (Internet Service Providers) providing Wired and Wireless Data Services such as the soon to be launched 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) as described in my blog article entitledLIME and Digicel have purchase AWS and 700 MHZ Spectrum for 4G LTE - Spectrum Purchase by the Number with Strings Attached as Ministry gets kitty donations from Local Telcos”.

Personnel who work in the Telecoms field that support ICT and Telecoms Systems that keep companies going. They do regular Routine Maintenance on these Systems to keep them going, their main bread and butter. And most of them have signed NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreements) that forbids them from disclosing company secrets to competitors, the Traditional or Social Media or worse to the Public at large, often referred to via the derogatory slag as being “outsiders”.

I know this, having worked at C&W (Cable and Wireless), now LIME Jamaica (2001 to 2004) and then later at CLARO Jamaica (2008 to 2009), having designed their Network and thereby securing a job there. My work experience is plainly laid out in my Engineering Resume and Diploma and Degree qualifications are there plain for anyone to see.

Animation and Video Game Programming – Million Dollar Industries that we’re barely tapping

Animation is the only ICT Sub-Sector from this list that has gotten any real push by the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) as reported in my blog article entitled “Inaugural KingstOOn Animation Competition a boost to local Animation Industry - State Minister Julian Robinson give Graphic Artists the chance to Feel this Moment Pitbull and Christina Aguilera Style”.

Animation is yet to really take off, as those powers-that-be that are pushing Animation are not focused on individual animations or small Teams of animators being empowered with the skill to make quality animation for local consumption. Rather, their focus is on developing a Call Center-esque environment for Animation to be done on demand via small BPO (Business Process Outsourcing).

These mini-projects would be undertaken by the BPO’s in order to yield profits via FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) for various accounts and Taxation of these large-scale investors and their employees as can be surmised from my Geezam blog article entitled “KingstOOn Animation Festival and GG’s “I Believe in Jamaica” Animation Training – Genesis of Animation Outsourcing”.

In essence, BPO focused not on terminating calls for clients, but finishing Animation Projects for Clients. The GOJ (Government of Jamaica) might have a similar plan in store for the Video Gaming Industry, as that too is a Sector closely related to animation. Oddly, there are only three (3) major Animators in Jamaica:

1.      Alcyone, which makes the Cabbie Chronicles
2.      Reel Rock GSW

To date, the only one making any major headway in terms of gaining International Contracts that would require them to employ more Animators is Reel Rock GSW. They’re doing animation on contract for Disney Channel and Nickelodeon's Lucky Fred in partnership with Imira Entertainment of Spain as stated in my blog article entitled “Animation after KingstOON - Reel Rock GSW reveals that the Imira Entertainment of Spain Contract is for Disney Channel and Nickelodeon's Lucky Fred”.

To that end, I began a series of articles on Animation that have the title “Animation after KingstOOn” that have tracked Animation’s development in Jamaica since the inaugural KingstOOn Animation Conference and Film Festival at the UWI Mona Lodge on Friday June 21st  2013 as reported in my blog article entitled “Inaugural KingstOOn Animation Competition a boost to local Animation Industry - State Minister Julian Robinson give Graphic Artists the chance to Feel this Moment Pitbull and Christina Aguilera Style”.

Still, the rest of Jamaica, be it Corporate Jamaica or even the Broadcasting Community has yet to even sponsor a competition to support this fledgling Industry as I’d suggested years ago in my blog article entitled J'Anime Competition  - An Avenue to Fame for Animators”.

Ditto too the Video Game Industry, about which I’ve written countless letters to Television Jamaica as well as doing a basic primer on how to get started doing 2D or 3D Video Games as chronicled in my blog article entitled “Animation after KingstOOn - How to make a Video Game for PC, Smartphone and Tablet”.

ICT Industry doesn’t Exist – Moneymaking for Telecom Providers guarded by NDA’s

So there is the truth laid bare.

The so-called pure ICT Industry really doesn’t exist at all. ICT is merely an extended functionality of the Telecoms Sector, which is why Telecom Provider Digicel wants 25% of their revenue from it as stated in my blog article entitled “Digicel to invest US$85 million in 4G LTE Network - 25% of Total revenue from ICT as 4G LTE Investments designed to weather the coming Summer WhatsApp Storm”.

The perception of male dominance is an illusion, as there’s nothing to dominate, really. Just a bunch of aggressive uptowners who apparently watch too much Cable TV and like discussing tech in a fast-paced manner akin to white American Teenagers, thinking that it makes them sound intelligent! They can’t discuss anything else, as NDA prevent them from doing so.

Many of them don’t even know how to fix their own computers. I know this, as I’ve had my fair share of customers uptown with antique machines that need driver updates as chronicled in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to locate Missing Drivers for Older Laptops and Computers”.

Then there’s the GOJ and the Private Sector.

The Government of Jamaica and the Private Sector have NO real interest in having an ICT Sector by itself that can empower Jamaicans with the skill to do Application Software Design, Computer and Network Design or even App Design for smartphones and Tablets.

Jamaica doesn’t even have a Manufacturing Sector, yet our Earthquake ravaged neighbor Haiti can make Tablets as noted in my blog article entitled “Haiti's Surtab SA and Handxom SA making 7-inch Tablet to supply Digicel - Pengelley's Tablets need Cheap Electricity for Plants to make LED, Li-Ion Batteries and Solar Panels”.

Muchless to make Solar Panels and Fluorescent Bulbs in collaboration with the Cubans in a bid to connect the last 3% of Jamaicans to the power Grid as stated in my blog article entitled “Jamaica and Cuba collaborate on Solar Panels Production in Jamaica to connect the last 3% - Jamaica's rebranding of the REP to the JESL started the Alternative Energy Hunger Games Catching Fire”.

ICT and Women – Organizing force to jump-Start ICT Industry in Jamaica

In their minds, any Jamaican possessing training with regards to ICT or Telecommunications would mean that they possess knowledge of how their internal systems work. That makes the person a valuable asset that may eventually turn around and demand to pay more money for their services than they can afford. They are also dangerous if they reveal information to “outsiders” the term used to describe persons outside of ICT or Telecommunications or worse the Traditional or Social Media, hungry for a story.

Consequently, highly trained ICT and Telecoms Personnel, often referred to as Specialists to the specialized nature of their training but called “Professionals” by Jamaicans, are usually chosen based on their level of loyalty. This is usually ensured via the incumbent trainee signing NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreements) that prevent them from disclosing information to competitors or to outsiders.

The GOJ and Private Sector, truth be told, would rather have Jamaicans work in a Call Center or BPO environment that makes sure that they know basic skills to achieve work but not to be empowered with the ability to Create or Design.

Thus if women really want to enter the ICT and Telecoms Sector, they’ll have to literally form Teams and Groups to push a purely ICT agenda and Create their own companies that do Application Software Design, Computer and Network Design or even App Design for smartphones and Tablets.

The Secretive nature of these fields is the main reason why so few Females are involved, with the illusion of male-dominance being the outcome of the GOJ and our Education System not making Females aware that this white Unicorn, the ICT Industry and its associated fields even exists…..or does NOT exist for that matter.

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