Some small businesses which received government assistance over the past year have invested in basic technology in an effort to become more sustainable.
This indication has come from Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Investment Marsha Caddle, as she highlighted on Thursday, the digitalization efforts taking place in Barbados and gave the assurance that the work being done by the Mia Mottley administration would ensure Barbadian companies have a greater ease in global reach.
“The work we are doing is not just about domestic markets, otherwise what is the point of digital if it does not serve to remove several of the barriers to regional and international trade that exist in physical brick and mortar environments?” she said.
Caddle was addressing the 17th annual RF Economic Outlook conference, which was held online for the first time under the theme Global Digital Disruption: Threat or Opportunity.
“The digital disruption movement must by definition be global. We are doing nothing for the citizens and residents of Barbados, the Bahamas, or the Cayman Islands if our digital agenda does not allow their creative and productive capacity to meet a global market. This is what we discovered when we started investigating the international payments environment: that there were barriers to a Barbadian company or artist selling in the Amazon marketplace or any of the countless other platforms.
“So we began the work not just to access those spaces but to start creating indigenous regional spaces. And with that we are working with local idea labs . . . This is one of those places where it is not for government to solve the problem, but simply to open up to the solution,” said Caddle.
She said while the pandemic proved that the national digitalization efforts, which began in 2019, were not as fast as they could have been, it also showed up the companies that could quickly adapt and those that could not.
“Larger companies with capital and brand recognition could easily buy a fleet of food delivery vehicles and pay for the tech support to throw up an online platform overnight for example; small retail less so and sole proprietor businesses selling unique products or services even less so,” she pointed out.
“When we introduced our COVID economic recovery measures for small businesses, getting cash into the hands of small business owners, we saw that a percentage of those resources were invested into the most basic of technologies – people bought smart phones with decent cameras, they got bank or other financial institution or payment system accounts, they got an Instagram account and just like that they were in online retail or services,” said Caddle.
She said by watching this process unfold over the past several months, government has since been able to “develop a blueprint for what businesses need at least to survive and work from there to figure out what they need to thrive and how to make sure they get those things more quickly”.
Using the start-up of delivery companies during the pandemic as an example, Caddle insisted that Government’s aim was to create the right environment for the start-up companies to grow and become profitable, ultimately hiring more residents.
Caddle said the Mottley administration recognized the importance of a digital economy early out, which led to the start of the implementation of the ongoing national US$40 million digitalization and modernization programme about two years ago.
She highlighted the National Payment System legislation, introduced last year, that should result in a reduction in costs associated with payments and make all kinds of payments easier and faster for everyone. (MM)