‘We have to move our services online very quickly’

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Jamaica’s experience with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) underlines the need for greater utilisation of online services across the society.

He said these are not only cost-effective and efficient, but are also the “way of the future”.

Holness emphasised that the digital age is “here to stay”, and that the public should be encouraged to utilise online services being provided by the Government.

“Jamaica has to move online. It is inevitable that it [must] happen…even though there are people who resist it and view it as intrusive. We have to move our services online very quickly… especially in [light of the prevailing] pandemic,” the prime minister said.

He was speaking with JIS News during a visit to the offices of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in St Ann’s Bay, St Ann, last Wednesday during which he, among other things, viewed two recently acquired mobile units.

The buses, which were retrofitted at a cost of $25.5 million, are equipped with with air conditioning, office areas, client number tracking systems, public address (PA) systems, and sanitising stations.

They are also outfitted with storage cabinets, refrigerators, inverter power supply, mobile tents and first-aid kits.

Funding was provided by the Government and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Holness, in commending the ministry for acquiring the units, noted that they will facilitate more efficient service delivery to individuals, especially those residing in deep-rural communities.

He contended that “more ministries [need] to do this, considering that we get a lot of complaints about how government services are being delivered”.

The prime minister emphasised that doing so is even more critical in light of the many persons, notably the elderly and individuals with special needs, who rely on some of the government services provided but often encounter challenges accessing these.

Permanent secretary in the ministry Collette Roberts-Risden, who advised that a third unit is being sourced, said the vehicles will be used to promote the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).

“We have found that there are a number of persons who should be receiving PATH benefits and are in need of support from the Government but, for whatever reason, they are not on the programme. The buses will be used to get into the deep-rural communities to find these persons and get them on PATH,” she said.

Roberts-Risden said that the units will also better enable the ministry to reach the “thousands of persons” who are not contributing to the NIS.

“Many of them need to be educated about the benefits, so the buses will be used to go into the rural communities to find [those] persons,” she added.

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