No traction for Diaspora mapping project
The reluctance of overseas Jamaicans to sign up for the Mapping Jamaica's Diaspora Initiative came up as an issue of concern during the 6th biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay, St James, last week after it was revealed that only 2,000 applications have been received.
The project, which was launched last June, is geared towards inviting Jamaicans to participate via two survey instruments - one geared towards individuals and the other towards community, alumni or other philanthropic associations - to make it easier to engage and encourage Jamaicans living in the Diaspora to contribute to nation building.
"I am going to be frank ... . When we talk to members of the Diaspora about taking part (in the survey), they are asking how much can you pay us, and for me, that's disheartening because, as far as I am concerned, the Jamaica Diaspora is one where you have people who want to give back," said Keisha Livermore, head of the diaspora's International Organization for Migration (IOM).
In addition to its Jamaican launch, the project was also launched in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada at later dates.
Arnaldo Brown, state minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said last year that he is anticipating that the database will capture some 100,000 people.
"The fact is, if we don't hit the target by June next year, it is not a loss or a failure, but certainly it means that we will have to continue the process of encouraging people to sign up," he said.
The minister appealed to Jamaicans living overseas to participate in the project, noting that it will serve as an important tool for "serious diaspora engagement".
The online survey was intended to identify and measure variables that are necessary to gather information to identify the locations, skills, expertise and interests of members of the global Jamaican Diaspora, and was launched last year. At the time, the IOM expressed confidence that Jamaicans would support the initiative.
"We expected support, especially from young Jamaicans and persons who are of Jamaican descent, not necessarily first-generation and even second- and third-generation Jamaicans, who would want to participate in something like this and to have their participation count in helping to develop the country," Rukiya Brown, programme assistant at IOM, stated at the time.
While expressing alarm at the lack of interest in the mapping project, US-based Jamaican businessman Earl Service said that it could be a case of members of the Diaspora being frustrated by years of unfulfilled promises by successive governments in making the system simpler to invest in Jamaica.
"Some of us looking in-depth in what is going on in Jamaica are of the view that the government needs to respect us," said Service.
"We are business people doing well in other countries, but when we are to engage to invest in our own country, there are so many people to open doors... . We want to now move from the door, so allow us in to lend our expertise."