Jamaica’s 100MBps Internet Silver Lining – Tele-commuting Workplace is coming

Every cloud has a silver lining but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint

Don Marquis, Certain Maxims of Archie

In my article “Social Network Prostitution: FOMO drives Millennials to “Inboxing”” I explored the Dark Side of the 23.9% lack of interest of the use of the Internet for Entrepreneurial pursuits and VC (Venture Capital) start-ups. 71% of the 38% who occasionally glance at a Computer and go online via Internet in Jamaica for Social Networking is a precursor to Social Prostitution.

The coming of a Government of Jamaica instigated UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited) funded build-out of a 100MBps island wide Fiber Optic Network powered by LIME and FLOW may be the accelerant for its explosive rise among the populace who only have basic education.

For the millennials in the Dr. Hopeton Dunn-led Caribbean ICT Indicators and Broadband Survey, the Internet and computers are a status symbol, not a tool for work and Financial Empowerment .This is a department of human thinking that mostly focuses on burning movie and Music CD’s and DVD.

After all, one does not need to have huge sums of money to start a business. Especially if you have the support of family, friends and relatives who are of a similar mindset!

In that previous article above, I made mention of several ideas that these young ‘uns that were the focus of the Dr. Hopeton Dunn-led Caribbean ICT Indicators and Broadband Survey as so neatly laid out in my previous rant entitled “Jamaica’s Low Net Penetration – Broadband Internet A Universal Right”.

In that article I posited making Broadband Access a Universal Right, effectively on the same level as Light, Water, Right to Life, Freedom of Expression, etc. A Finnish-esque means of combating our No. 73 ranking in the world according to the findings of the Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011 published by the World Economic Forum (WEO).

But to avoid the accelerant effect towards Social Prostitution, these young upstarts must be made aware of the fact that the future of the workplace is rapidly changing. And this change, ironically, is being catalyzed by the very same coming of possibly Free Broadband Internet. Burning CD and DVD and hanging out on FaceBook and Twitter only to end up in Social Prostitution is not the only use the Internet and computers have!

It is the much spoken of and oft derided phenomenon of Tele-commuting or Tele-working. No need to come to the office. Work from home comfortably, using the High Speed Broadband Internet and a computer in one’s own home office!

This folks is the Silver Lining to the ill tempest that the coming of possibly “Free” Wired and Wireless Broadband Internet powered by this jointly built island wide Fiber Optic Network may bring!

This was a trend predicted as far back as 2007 by analyst Gartner. Gartner analyst Caroline Jones stated that the total number of American who tele-commute stood at twelve million (12,000,000), an increase of six million (6,000,000) from 2000.

Caroline Jones projected that this number would top fourteen million (14,000,000) by 2009. She calls this phenomenon of tele-commuting, powered by the proliferation of Broadband Internet, quote “the quiet revolution”.

Tele-commuting does have it pitfalls for employees. Even the idea of an “employee” may change, with the term “contractor” being a more suitable fit. Because of the flexible office-less working environment, employees may wish employees to work at odd hours.

This as the traditional model of the forty (40) hour, five (5) day work-week may be thrown out the window. With the hours scatted all over the week and employees locations being monitored via company-issued smartphones with GPS Modules.

Thus employers, seeking more productivity out of their “road-warriors” working from their vehicles or at home may request that employees work on any day.

This as they have their computer on them, which may be a Laptop, Netbook, Tablet, smartphone or all of the above issued by the company. This may be a great working environment for the jet-set who love traveling, especially traveling abroad.

But it is a tiring proposition for the devout Christian, be he Sunday-worshipper or Sabbath-keeper, who may wish to have a day for themselves for devoting to their God and Religious duties, only to have to contend with the workplace calling or emailing them on their day of worship.

Here in Jamaica, Tele-commuting has gotten a bit of bad Press, but under a different name: flex-work hours. This name “flexi-work” polarizes this work phenomenon here in Jamaica that has been the driving success behind the use of the internet as a source of revenue in the United States of America.

In Jamaica, since the debate began in 1997, it is seen as an enemy of the Church, with fears that flexi-work will rob the worker of time at Church, resulting in reduced attendance at Church – and reduced revenues, the obvious unspoken reason.

Even more pressing is the fear of discrimination against Seventh Day Adventists, who worship on the Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) and may become the target of employers under a flexi-work arrangement when such employees insist on having the Sabbath off.

There is also the fear among employees when it comes to being overlooked for promotions if one is a tele-commuting. This fear is unfounded, especially as tele-commuting beats being in traffic traveling back and forth to the office and the benefits of family and friends being at hand.

If you had a good rapport with your boss and fellow employees, being on the road does not result in you missing out on promotions. Merely, it challenges you to find new ways via technology to connect with your staff, who themselves may also wish to tele-commute and emulate your pioneering strides.

Goes along way to explaining the double dose of articles by Jamaica Observer Reporter Erica Virtue in her article on Sunday, February 22nd, 2009 and her follow up article on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009!

In both seminal pieces, Jamaica Observer Reporter Erica Virtue not only re-expounded the issues and the progress made thus far, but also mentioned of the twelve (12) wasted years of back and forth negotiations on the issue since 1997, with the Church holding their ground and politicians fearing political repercussions.

Then in September 2009AD, Minister on Labour and Social Security, Senator Pearnel Charles began an impassioned plea for the return to flexi-work arrangements. This sitting of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament that took place on Thursday September 24th 2009AD to deliberate over the Green Paper on Flexi-work.

This after negotiations on the wording of the Green Paper, a document formed prior to its submission to the Lower House as a White Paper for Debate, appears to have been stalled in 2009.

With a Global Recession monster showing no end in sight as stated, Minister on Labour and Social Security, Senator Pearnel Charles spoke, quote: “For me, from where I sit at the Ministry of Labour, it’s going to take some time before the rain comes and the grass starts to spring green again”.

To some extent, Tele-commuting fuels the Venture Capitalist phenomenon in the US of A as well. Tele-commuting is the “rain” that Jamaica desperately needs now, especially with the recent revelations of a lack of interest in the Internet for Business and Entrepreneurial pursuits.

The coming of Broadband Internet, be it at the hands of the local and FDI (Foreign Direct Investor) funded Telecom Providers or the Government of Jamaica-funded inland wide Fiber Optic Network, hastens the need for such Legislative changes. This as such a tele-commuting work Legislative Framework for flexi-work arrangement fuels the technology start ups that use the Internet!

Once the correct Legislative Framework is in place, the “grass starts to spring green again” will put more Jamaicans back to productive labour, assured of a Legislative Framework that defines their category of work.

Changes to the Green Paper, now currently still in debate, should allow:

  1. Businesses open for twenty four (24) hour a day, excluding Public Holidays;
  2. Businesses open for seven (7) days a week, excluding Public Holidays
  3. Greater accessibility to their customers i.e. via the Wired and Wireless Internet, Voice telephony
  4. Increased employment because of the need for more workers to work Day and night shifts

With a round the clock shift-based system, downtime with family and friends can be arranged, so long as it is done prior to pre-arranged work stints.

Sanctions for employers who discriminate on the basis of religion based on complaints to the Ministry of Labour should ease the qualms of Seventh Day Adventists, as a Flexi-work week and the associated increased productivity in a country working 24/7 benefits the Economy, productive employee as well as the employer.

This is the whole idea of Tele-commuting.

For example, instead of traveling to the Leeward Islands to have a Marketing Meeting, one can arrange with the local marketers via a meeting in a teleconferencing setup. Saves on travel cost, time and company funds on traveling and builds a love for the technology.

Plus the material gain from promotions can be easily offset by taking on additional Tele-commuting jobs, such as making money from being a part of a Network Marketing Team.

There is a downside, however.

Albeit a more flexible work arrangement, with one being less distracted by office commotion, Social Networking is a distraction of the less professional worker. Social Networking again, here, seems to be the problem!

Possibly these flexi-work arrangements may work for an older generation of worker, with the challenge of learning to use a company-assigned Laptop, Tablet or smartphone to do work at home.

But a younger, more computer-savvy set of Generation Y or Millennial [ages 18 to 28] may have difficulty separating their Work lives from the Social Networking craze of FB and Twitter. For them, Social Networking is their life and the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can only be overcome by some strong willpower and counseling.

But as an employee sees how easy it is to work in this Tele-commuting environment, employers will soon find more people willing to forego formal employment and set up their own home office and do work at home. In that distant future, five (5) years from now when the Island wide Fiber Optic Network being built by the LIME and FLOW, this problem will begin to beset employers.

Coupled with the decreasing costs of Internet access and falling PC prices due to Americans ditching Laptops and even PC’s for Tablets as posited in my article entitled “Are we Witnessing Laptop and PC Extinction?”, Network Marketing companies will flourish like poppies.

Suddenly these “road warriors” will realize while Tele-commuting, they can get other work done at the same time by doing other additional work on the side.

Tele-commuting may not only be inevitable in the future for Jamaica, but also may end up competing with traditional Brick-and-mortar businesses in wooing graduates to work for them.

This as fellow entrepreneurial-minded graduates may create their own Internet start-ups that will attract fellow graduates to work in an environment that is not as rigid as the traditional Brick-and-mortar businesses, yet giving them a taste of being in charge of a company and having decision-making abilities. Not to mention ownership and control over your ideas and products.

This is generally true in smaller companies which foster greater creativity in smaller workgroups to tackle company challenges, with a direct relationship between what you do and its impact on the company’s bottom line.

Often these start-ups employees are small workgroups or college friends. These start-ups with no fixed brick-and-mortar presence, with employees scattered over geographical locations in Jamaica, their collaborative work being co-ordinated by work co-ordiantor.

Eventually, the brick-and-mortar companies may be forced to go that route if they wish to even attract workers in the future. Sort of like the Dot.com Boom of the mid-90’s and its fermentation of Silicon Valley start-ups that proliferate today.

All possible in five (5) years time! As soon as the young upstarts of the start-up revolution powered by Tele-commuting in this future flexi-work Jamaican workplace can keep Social Networking out of their Work lives!!!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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