Jamaica Magazine

eCommerce and Jamaica

Written by Ingrid Riley

Mention the words ecommerce and Jamaica in a single breath and you’ll get either a sigh of frustration or a well rehearsed cynical comment. It’s just that there has been so much hype and talk plus a litany of aborted and on hold projects, with the few success stories, being linked to migrant Jamaicans living overseas or a few others with strong links to the local Financial sector.

So as many Jamaicans are left wondering if ecommerce in Jamaica will be like Waiting for Godot, I found Minister Paulwell’s announcement last week of “regulatory framework” coming that will make Jamaica “the ecommerce hub of the region”, quite curious.

Kudos for the Minister’s intention behind the announcement, but I have one question. When we talk of region, are we including Bermuda ? Because if so, that title of ecommerce hub of the region, they’ve already taken. Here’s why. Bermuda has a 50-year history of a strong financial community; we’re still in the midst of rebuilding our financial sector after the fallout in the 90s. They enacted an Electronics Transactions Act in 1999. They have created a Ministry of Telecommunications and eCommerce headed by a woman, Renee Webb, who is the first Minister worldwide to have E-Commerce as a Ministerial title and a department added to it.

Add to that Bermuda is the only offshore jurisdiction that has local partners working with First Data Corporation, the largest third-party credit card processor in the world. Three quarters of U.S. Fortune 100 companies have a presence in Bermuda. Further, they seem to have all angles covered from their infrastructure in terms of the telecoms, ISPs, Network and Security People, to the application side of things by securing Payment Gateways, Web development and ASP support. And to round off that picture, they’ve sewn up investors and insurers, all making ecommerce in Bermuda working pretty smoothly. The country has over a hundred ebusinesses operating from its shores.

So as we anxiously await the release of this magnificent document and hope for ecommerce in Jamaica’s future, let’s acknowledge where were are. Banking: Are Jamaican banks prepared or preparing to invest in systems that will eliminate their primary worry of fraud. What changes will have to be made to the Banking Act to facilitate ecommerce? Shipping: Our shipping costs are too high. Why does it cost so much to ship from Jamaica? How practical will it be to ship clothing, arts and crafts, gourmet foods from here? Technical: What expertise exists in Jamaica to assist local companies in building ecommerce systems? Internet Access: Here’s hoping that with increased competition in the ISP market and with Wireless Internet Access emerging – the cost of Internet access will be more reasonable. Web Hosting: What a scam we have going here? It’s better for a local company to go overseas to get web hosting solutions because the range and reseller rates here are a turn off. Government: IT has the potential to become a major industry here, what incentives and legal support are they prepared to give and how long will we have to wait for it all.

Here’s to hoping that we don’t have to wait too long to be able to do business online, to market and sell our products and services on the Net.

Industry Insider: HomeViewJamaica.com Act 2 ?! this Phoenix may be rising from the ashes. Check out the Jamaica Consumer Electronics Show early June as well as an event on Business and Lifestyle Opportunities In Wireless Communications also in that month. Also, why does an American company own the ebizjamaica.com domain name and has anyone registered ebiz.com.jm as yet?

Ingrid Riley is a writer, and CEO of MiND FULL Press a Caribbean Media and Publishing Company, that is the premier source for Caribbean Tech News and Information. She is active in the Caribbean’s hi-tech and business communities. Send comments to her at [email protected].

About the author

Ingrid Riley