KINGSTON, Jamaica, August 9, 2019 (CMC) – Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, is encouraging Jamaicans to embrace the possibilities that can result from the country’s transition to a digital economy, noting that “many times booms have come in the digital global economy and we have not been able to ride them”.
“We are now on the upswing of the digital era. Let us take advantage of it… let us not fear it,” Holness urged at the launch of the Companies Office of Jamaica’s (COJ) Electronic Business Registration Form (eBRF).
He said that his administration continues to proceed in a “very deliberate way”, with plans to integrate technology into its daily operations, in keeping with a commitment to ensure that Jamaica leapfrogs the digital divide.
“In the coming years, it will be the societies that have embraced technology and used it for innovation that will be the [global] leaders. It is clear… that the [transformation to] a digital society is imminent, it is irresistible… and the faster you embrace it and get ahead of it [the better the chances that] you will lessen the digital divide,” he added.
The online platform, which replaces the COJ’s one-stop-shop, paper-based super-form that was introduced in 2014, will facilitate 24-hour business registrations at the agency’s website – www.orcjamaica.com — from any location, globally.
The initiative is a collaborative effort involving the Cabinet Office and Public Sector Transformation Unit, with funding support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Prime Minister Holness praised the stakeholder partners for the “tremendous work” undertaken to establish the new platform, noting that the ease of registering a company on the eBRF is “mind-blowing”, and serves as an indication that Jamaica is transitioning “boldly” into a digital society.
He said that the platform is “a step further” in positioning Jamaica as a “potential place for international businesses”, which will be further enhanced with the creation of the proposed international business centre, for which “we have almost completed the legislation”.
In his address, Holness highlighted work being done by members of the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme Digitization Corps to digitize thousands of paper-based documents.
“Having done that, you now have content… data… that you can use to populate databases. When you have that level of data, whether it is (information for) health records or motor vehicles or companies, you, as the government, are in a much better position to make decisions,” he noted.
He also emphasised the importance of having a reliable National Identification System (NIDS), through which persons can be assured that “when you present yourselves, you are known, you are acknowledged, and you can get service”.
Holness said the government is “moving ahead to put in place the backbone that is going to be necessary to have the system work”.
“We have a form, which the NIDS will take. We just need to approve it and get it back on the Parliamentary agenda and, hopefully, it will be satisfactory to our courts,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Audley Shaw, said that eBRF is the first online business registration platform in the Caribbean, and hailed the launch as a “significant achievement” for the COJ and Jamaica.
He said it represents a major thrust towards modernising and transitioning the business environment, to offer world-class services to clients.
Shaw noted that the government is undertaking a “comprehensive approach” to improving Jamaica’s business climate through interventions, such as the National Competitiveness Council’s (NCC) Business Environment Reform Agenda.
“To this end, we have seen recent legislative changes resulting in enhanced access to credit through the National Collateral Registry, and ongoing reform in the public sector to make it more efficient to do business with the government.”
Shaw told the audience that the government remains committed to further improving the business environment, adding that “we cannot afford to be complacent”.
“We must continue the momentum and focus on other critical areas, such as the cost and ease of paying taxes and trading across borders,” he said, adding that the BRF’s launch, coupled with continued improvements in the business environment, will make Jamaica “an even more attractive destination for local and international investors”.