Speech by the Prime Minister

Address By The Most Honourable Andrew Holness ON, MP Prime Minister At IDB Caribbean Forum

The Jamaican society is an economy, it is still pretty much trying to transition out of an industrial based society which, we’ve never really been an industrial based society but, the age in which we exist is a transitional period into a digital age and we are struggling to find our footing for economic growth, job creation, security and prosperity for our people.

A large part of the solution to our struggles is how we harness the benefits of technology as a catalyst in the transformation of our society and our economy. What we’re doing is creating now a unique ID, a digital ID, a digital platform for communication and exchange of information for government; a single portal for information and using technology to enhance law enforcement and to increase the speed of doing business is one part of the general strategy of public sector transformation and so the loan that Minister Shaw signed today, is a firm step in that direction.

It is not without challenge. It is not something that is readily understood by the wide masses of the society and it is something that the government has to take time to explain to people. Many issues arise when we start to enter upon the conversation about giving every citizen an identification. It means that government will have to collect information about every citizen.

There is the issue of trust. How will this information be used? Will the information be safe? Will the information be used in a predatory way? We acknowledge many of these concerns as legitimate.

We acknowledge that in the past, sometimes government has not always been scrupulous with people’s information or how they have used it but that is not an excuse or a reason for government not to move the society into the digital age. Whatever it is that government is doing, whether it is in fighting corruption in law enforcement or digitizing the society, the government must act responsibly, scrupulously and with integrity.

The real issue is not so much the digitization and the use of technology. The real issue is how do we get government to act in an integrous way and to guarantee the citizens the protection of their data and that is what we’ve been doing. You do that through your democratic process. You  do that by the lecture of your government, by an active civil society, by the parliament passing legislation and having a  justice system and a law enforcement system that will act when there are breaches and I think that the way in which this government has acted and has used the elected authority that it has, should give some confidence that Jamaica is maturing in terms of its governance and its laws and that we are building the systems and institutions necessary to protect the citizens.

The government is acting in the interest of the citizen. I think that is the clear message that must be sent. Whether it is in National Security, the government is acting in the best interest of the citizen. Whether it is justice and supporting the judiciary, the government is acting in the interest of the citizen. Whether it is in housing and land settlement, the government is acting in the interest of the citizens and whether it is increasing the efficiency of the public sector, the speed at which we do business and giving the citizen an identity, the government is acting in the best interest of the citizen and that is what we’re doing.

It’s nothing nefarious, nothing to in any way erode the privacy of the citizens. What we’re trying to do is to strengthen government so that we can better serve you.