Jamaican Douglas Halsall, the nation’s top information technology magnates and head of Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS), is in the process of creating the first major internet business in the Caribbean. He says that it will provide everything that large and influential internet businesses like Amazon and Alibaba currently offer, but with a focus on products from Jamaica and other Caribbean countries. Discussing his vision, Halsall said he believed in the statement by George Bernard Shaw that some people see things as they are and ask why, while others dream of things that never were and ask why not. He places himself firmly in the second category. “I am saying, let me make it happen. It’s going to happen. It must happen,” he said.
Halsall is planning to combine the knowledge held by his company concerning computer systems and digital “gadgets” with the expertise he acquired through partnerships working to expand the use of e-commerce technology in India in order to help Jamaica become a prime example for digital expansion in the Caribbean region. His plans faced a serious obstacle when he discovered that only some 14 percent of Jamaicans use credit cards, however. The cards are necessary to access the internet’s retail systems. He confronted this problem head-on by using the knowledge acquired in an earlier partnership made by AIS to introduce a mobile money platform known as “Quisk.” The platform would allow customers at National Commerce Bank to make cashless transactions via a system implemented by Quisk, a mobile payments leader based in California. He says that as of now customers who want to use internet retailing business can go through the bank, get a Quisk card, and access the system he is planning. He also expects three other commercial banks to get on board with his system before the end of 2019.
Halsall wants local businesses of all sizes to reap the benefits of his internet retailing plans in the same way the businesses in the United States are benefitting from Amazon and Alibaba. “So we want to be like the Amazon or Alibaba for Jamaican and Caribbean products by providing the virtual storefronts on our system,” he added. He believes the new system would provide a major boost to the efforts of Jamaica’s Economic Growth Council to create a five-percent growth rate over a period of four years.
Photo Courtesy: Douglas Halsall