Jamaica's Internet Story based on the GDI Framework

Jamaica's Internet Story based on the GDI Framework

Samantha Thompson (College of Business, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA), Abinwi Nchise (Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA), Oneurine Ngwa (Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA), Allison B. Conti (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA), Victor Mbarika (College of Business, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA) and Evan Duggan (University of West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica)
DOI: 10.4018/IJISSS.2015070104


In this paper the authors examine the diffusion of the Internet in Jamaica through the lens of the Global Diffusion of the Internet (GDI) framework, which characterizes Internet diffusion along six dimensions: Pervasiveness, Geographical Dispersion, Sectoral Absorption, Connectivity Infrastructure, Organizational Infrastructure, and Sophistication of Use. Jamaica, like most developing nations, has faced numerous challenges to expanding its Internet and other information infrastructures over the past decade (; ). However, much of these efforts have yielded positive outcomes. For instance, the liberalization of the telecommunications sector in the late 1990's has led to increased access to the Internet and related applications for Jamaican citizens. The authors use this development as baseline for examining the pivotal role the Internet can play in economic, political, and social development through e-commerce, e-government, tele-education, and tele-medicine and discuss some “unintended” consequences of the Internet in Jamaica such as the use of technology to facilitate sex tourism. The authors conclude by offering implications of our study for research, practice and policy development.
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A growing body of literature points to the potential of the Internet to promote the socio-economic development of emerging economies such as Jamaica’s (Meso, Mbarika & Musa, 2007; Mbarika, Okoli, Byrd, & Datta, 2005). Economically, e-commerce offers potential benefits for the tourism, agricultural, and industrial sectors by decreasing information asymmetries and lowering costs. Politically, Jamaica’s e-government can increase the level of democratization and decrease inefficiencies attributable to excessive bureaucracy, and corruption by increasing the provision of services to citizens, transparency and voter access to political actors. Socially, reducing the internal digital divide can increase opportunities for social mobility, while tele-medicine and tele-education can increase the quality of life for those who would not otherwise be able to access the necessary resources for human development (Kifle et al., 2008; Mbarika et al., 2007a,b). Before benefits can be assessed however, the actual level of Internet penetration must be understood in a way that will allow researchers to establish a baseline for measurement over time.

In this study, we assess the level of Internet penetration in Jamaica using the Global Diffusion of the Internet (GDI) analytical framework developed by Wolcott et al. (2001). Since 1997, the Mosaic Group has undertaken the GDI Project, an extensive investigation of the spread of the Internet into countries all around the world. One of the primary products of GDI has been a framework for assessing the most pertinent dimensions of Internet diffusion at the national level. This GDI Framework is similar in concept to several of the e-readiness assessment tools created and gathered by non-governmental organizations such as Bridges.org and InfoDev, the World Bank’s Information for Development program. However, unlike the other e-readiness tools, the GDI framework has been rigorously developed and refined over a long period of time. Used in the evaluation of almost 40 countries, the GDI represents every continent and major socioeconomic level of development.

The GDI Framework uses the following six dimensions to identify and delineate the state of Internet diffusion in a country (Wolcott, Press, McHenry, Goodman & Foster, 2001):

  • Pervasiveness: Measures the number of Internet users per capita.

  • Geographical Dispersion: Denotes the extent to which the use of the Internet is spread throughout the country, ranging from accessibility in just a few major cities to proliferation in rural areas.

  • Sectoral Absorption: Captures the commitment to Internet use (as measured by leased lines and Internet servers) in the four major sectors of academia, commerce, healthcare, and government.

  • Connectivity Infrastructure: Assesses the extent and effectiveness of the physical structure of the network that supports the Internet as determined by the domestic backbone, international links, Internet exchanges, and methods of accessing the Internet.

  • Organizational Infrastructure: Refers to the market environment for Internet service providers (ISPs), including the extent and nature of privatization of national telecommunications.

  • Sophistication of Use: Attempts to measure the capability of a country to use the Internet to foster innovations and transform traditional practices for both individuals and organizations.

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