TECHNOLOGY

Jamaica is a technical desert. Players make it work anyway


While Jamaica Nice destination for someone who wants to take a vacation and disconnect from the connection, for tech savvy locals the lack of high quality, consistent internet connection and equipment is a nightmare. Jamaica is in many ways a tech desert: not as a major attraction for tourists seeking a haven from technology, but because it is hard for business owners and residents to get hold of technology.

Technology is scarce in Jamaica because it is expensive to import – the process is long and tedious. Companies like Amazon don’t ship directly to Jamaicans, so there’s the use of a Prime account to get free and fast shipping.

Andrew Johnson, Co-Founder and Vice President of Jamaican esports initiative Team, is a streamer. Johnson, like any player, is trying to upgrade his setting and improve the quality of his content. To do that, he needs a consistent way to get the same accessories and tools as any streaming device, but he can’t buy things Americans or Europeans take for granted, like high-end webcams or graphics cards, without paying double the price, if he has it. Absolutely.

This issue extends to Internet access. The primary service providers in the country are Digicel And flow. They charge quite a bit for very slow download speeds compared to ISPs in other countries.

Internet access is generally better than it used to be, according to Johnson, but mostly for people who live in Kingston, Jamaica’s largest city. “For people who live in rural areas, they are not able to get a better cable connection,” Johnson says. “Its highest upload speed is 8Mbps. Digicel provided broadband and fiber. I have 200Mbps download and 100Mbps upload.”

Digical is one of the major ISPs in Jamaica, and their pricing is similar to American ISPs, but with worse speeds.Courtesy of Junae Benne

To beat slow service and poor bandwidth, live broadcasts in Jamaica are often broadcast before 6am and after 6pm local time, since off hours are the best times for a stable and reliable connection.

When it comes to equipment and shopping, Jamaica has no big electronics stores like Best Buy or Micro Center. Large grocery stores may have some Electronics, but it’s twice the price Americans used to pay, and Jamaican shoppers know it.

“You can buy TVs, electronics and things from small local stores like What’s New, Intcomex and Royal Computers. You’d be fine with an old TV, versus an old graphics card,” Johnson says. He says he’s had talks with local stores , such as Royal Computers and Intcomex, to keep gaming-focused electronics in stock.

So why not buy from abroad? Many Jamaicans simply cannot afford those US or European prices. Minimum wage in Jamaica In 2019 it was J$175 ($1.34) an hour, which optimistically translates to C$7,000 ($46) a week. The average annual salary is around 336,378 Jamaican dollars ($2,280).



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