Caribbean News

Caribbean News (3)

Tuesday, 06 February 2018 03:39

Jamaicans will soon be using electronic passports

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According to chief executive officer of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) Andrew Wynter, work has already started on the implementation of what would be a historic project.


The idea of having e-passports falls under a raft of short- and long-term plans by PICA, which has pledged to provide valuable service to Jamaicans.


“We are going to boldly go where no agency has gone before,” Wynter told reporters and editors at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, eliciting laughter at his parody of the popular Star Trek narration.


This push towards increased use of technology, in keeping with current world trends, will also result in the use of e-gates similar to those in Europe, as well as opening up the online process for all products and services.


“Those are just some of the things we are currently exploring over the next few years which we believe will improve the experience and interface with the public, because one of the things PICA wants to do is create value for the Jamaican people. We are a public entity providing services for the public and it's important that they appreciate [the agency] and feel we have created some value for them and they are appreciated,” said Wynter.


Even before serious work is put into the implementation of that system, PICA officials all spoke at length and with passion about other aspects of their immediate development plan — a three-year programme.

“Very shortly we will be hoping to implement additional kiosks at both international airports,” said Wynter.


The kiosks are the automated border control systems or machines that process passengers.


“It is our intention to add 25 machines very shortly — 20 in Montego Bay and five in Kingston,” added Wynter.


PICA executives also outlined the start of a new system under which adults seeking to renew their machine-readable passports may do so with ease.


“We recently implemented a drop box, which is to assist persons with the renewal of their passports to move more quickly because, as you are aware, many persons still have in their mind these very long lines at the passport office; but that is rapidly becoming a thing of the past,” stated Wynter.


“The drop box service is specifically targeting our customers who are using machine-readable passports, which we started issuing in 2001,” Head of Customer Service Stephanie Gordon interjected. “Of course, we may require you to be there if you are replacing a lost passport or if it's your first time [applying for a passport].


“So the drop box allows you to come in with your old passport, complete your application form, take your pictures, you complete an envelope, and then you drop it in the box. You get a receipt, make your payment and then you leave. So it is a very simple process and it frees up our agents to deal with the other persons who are there for other services which require them to be there in person,” said Gordon, who revealed that the system was launched last December.


“We saw about 100 persons applying when we launched in December. Of course, people were sceptical about leaving their passports with us, but it [the drop box use] is growing … we have almost 500 persons applying as at the end of January and we have a customer service assistant there to help you. We have someone on hand just to review, but it's not a long process,” Gordon emphasised.


Gordon also said that Jamaicans in the Diaspora stand to benefit significantly from this initiative.


“In terms of turnaround time, most certainly it will improve because online renewal is quicker as it will eliminate six to eight steps that the average application will take,” Gordon said.


“They now have access to the (online) system and their applications will not have to go through the transportation process it goes through now,” she said, adding that the process will take fewer than 20 days for overseas applicants, and four days for local customers.


“In terms of the cost, we will advise [as soon as possible] because we are in the process of getting approval for the system, and so we have to go through the approval procurement process,” Gordon said.


Wynter emphasised that a courier service is being established in partnership with DHL and the agency hopes to have it in place by the middle of this year to make the passport delivery service more convenient to applicants.


He also said that PICA would soon implement customer service call centres to assist customers with their requests. “We have to prepare ourselves to deal with requests, not just locally but from overseas, and based on the time zones and time differences we will be required to provide these services round the clock. So we are now in discussion to establish which call centres we can use to assist us. So very shortly there will be a 1-800-PICA,” said Wynter.


Asked how PICA intends to fund these programmes, Wynter said that as an executive agency it is required to earn its own revenues. However, budgetary support can come from Government, through the Ministry of Finance, if there is a shortfall in certain target areas.


“We earned just over $1.5 billion last year, and our projection for this year is $2 billion with the different services to be introduced,” Wynter said.


“What we have been looking at is how we are going to earn the necessary financing so that we can finance any and all of our plans. In that regard one of the positions we are looking to develop is what we call a director of business development... to develop potential market segments which we may be currently underserving, and by building out those potential market segments we will earn the additional revenue that certainly will assist us in procuring and implementing many of the services that we are discussing,” he said.

Tuesday, 06 February 2018 03:28

Work of Liberty Hall's late director praised

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Retired University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Rupert Lewis, has lauded the work done by the late Director/Curator of Liberty Hall, Dr Donna McFarlane, in developing the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum at Liberty Hall, King Street in downtown Kingston.

He was speaking at the seventh staging of the Grounation Series held yesterday at the Institute of Jamaica Lecture Hall under the theme 'Garvey's Ghost: Muse, Cultural Arts, Aesthetics, Freedom Song'.


This year's Grounation, organised by the Jamaica Music Museum in collaboration with Liberty Hall was dedicated to the memory of McFarlane.


Addressing participants, Lewis noted that the late Liberty Hall director/curator “designed a multimedia museum that would be of interest to young people.” To date, he said some 60,000 students have visited the facility.


He said the facility, which includes touch-screen features and documentaries about identity, can teach children about values such as self-esteem.


Lewis, who has written extensively about Garvey, urged Jamaicans to seek to know more about the principles and teachings of the National Hero.


“We have to do more with what we have in order to make the principles of Garvey not only taught in schools but inform our thinking about politics and economics,” he added. ,p> The participants enjoyed the presentation and discussion that followed, which explored Garvey's life as a pan-African leader, human rights advocate and promoter of culture and the arts. Attendee Claudette Williams told JIS News that Grounation “is a necessary intervention and a reminder of what we need to keep in the forefront of our consciousness”.

She supported a call made during the question and answer segment to include the teachings of Marcus Garvey in the school curriculum.


'It's foundational. It is part of who we are and what has made us who we are, so I think it is an excellent idea,” she said.


Williams said she is eagerly looking forward to the other presentations at the Institute. “I found it very rewarding. I most certainly will be coming every Sunday,” she said.


Entertainment was provided by guest artist, The Mighty Diamonds, and the Nexus Performing Arts Company under the direction of Hugh Douse.


On February 11, President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Steven Golding, will examine the UNIA's influence on youth, poetry and contemporary popular music.

Tuesday, 06 February 2018 03:21

35,000 LED street lights to be installed this year

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Another 35,000 street lamps are to be installed this year under the Smart Light Emitting Diode (LED) Street Light Programme.

Since the roll-out of the programme in June 2017, 37,000 LED street lamps have been installed by the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) in several communities in Kingston and St Andrew, St James, St Ann, Trelawny, St Mary, Hanover, Westmoreland, and St Catherine.


The initiative, which is being implemented by the Government in partnership with JPS, aims to reduce the country's energy costs and increase the use of renewable energy sources.


The smart LED lighting technology allows for remote reading of the consumption of each lamp, identifying out-of-service lamps and control of the light intensity.


Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, said the public's response to the programme has been very positive.


“The level of support is overwhelming. Wherever we go across the island, persons commend the Government on the smart LED lights. It is a holistic approach that we are taking as it relates to offsetting our energy bill while, at the same time, preserving our environment,” he said.


Wheatley explained that while the primary aim of the programme is to reduce the country's energy costs, an additional benefit is the safety and security component where the smart technology provides support in crime-fighting, through the use of image sensing, including closed-circuit television (CCTV).


“Jamaica is moving forward, and we have to ensure that we have an environment that is safe and secure for our people. We are putting measures in place for the safety and security of our people,” the energy minister said.


The Smart LED Street Light Programme will target 110,000 street lights across Jamaica over the next three years.


The programme is part of an agreement between the Government and the power company to replace outdated infrastructure with modern, efficient street lights.


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