Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
By Steven Williams
Given my 25 years of experience in the information technology industry, I have shared insights on how the Internet might transform our static business environment. Looking back, I realise my perspectives might have been coloured by optimistic expectations or by drawing parallels too closely with more developed Western nations. However, our national and regional experience has been more evolutionary than revolutionary. Reflecting on the landscape of post-Internet business services, few have truly reshaped it, with notable exceptions like TicketPal and Cariblist.com. What we have achieved, for the most part, has been supplementary rather than transformative.
This observation about the success of certain digital businesses in Barbados leads me to a deeper exploration. Given the wide range of Internet business models, it’s fascinating to consider what makes these particular enterprises stand out in our context. To understand this, it’s essential to first delve into what is an Internet Business Model.
An Internet Business Model is a strategic approach defining how a company operates online, generates revenue, and maintains its digital presence. This model includes several key components: a unique value proposition that sets the business apart, diverse revenue streams like sales, subscriptions, advertising, and data monetisation, targeted marketing and positioning for specific online customer segments, effective distribution channels such as websites or apps, customer relationship management strategies, and a cost structure encompassing technology, marketing, and personnel.
Understanding these elements sheds light on why certain Internet enterprises stand out. Notable among Internet business models is Peer-to-Peer (P2P), which facilitates direct exchanges of goods and services. Examples include ridesharing apps like Uber and P2P lending platforms such as Lending Club, a prominent P2P lender in the United States offering personal and business loans.
E-commerce, another recognised model, has shown significant promise in Barbados, particularly with supermarkets expanding their websites during the COVID-19 pandemic. While subscription services like newspaper access have gained some ground locally, at the international level this model is more prevalent in streaming services akin to Netflix.
The most successful model in Barbados is Data Monetisation, where businesses profit from large volumes of user data. A subset of this is “Information Aggregation”, where companies use technology tools to consolidate diverse information in one location.
Exploring successful Internet business models offers valuable insights into particular companies’ achievements. Cariblist.com stands out as a prime example and is notable for being one of the most successful and longest-running purely Internet-based businesses in the region. Its platform streamlines the real estate search process by consolidating listings in one place. This one-stop solution benefits both real estate agents, who can list their properties comprehensively, and users, who avoid the hassle of navigating through multiple individual realtor sites with limited market offerings.
Ticketpal.com, an online ticketing platform, is another success story in the digital space. This service has revolutionised the traditional event ticketing process, providing a more convenient and efficient way for event organisers to sell and for customers to purchase tickets. The value of Ticketpal.com becomes even more evident when contrasted with the pre-digital era, where ticket sales were limited to physical locations. This often led to issues like sold-out ticket agents or the inconvenience of having to travel to multiple locations for event tickets. With Ticketpal.com, e-tickets are only ‘sold out’ when the event itself is fully booked, significantly simplifying the purchasing experience for consumers.
It’s clear that the primary driver for the adoption of local Internet products in Barbados has been the emphasis on convenience services. This reflects a global trend, where Internet giants like Amazon and eBay have achieved massive success, largely owing to their focus on convenience. I believe there’s significant untapped potential in the “convenience” sector, and it’s crucial for us to boldly explore these opportunities. However, there appears to be a lack of emphasis on this area at the university level. Students should be engaging more deeply with local and regional markets to spark innovations. Additionally, I suggest that established businesses should re-envision their IT departments and resources, not merely as support functions but as hubs of innovation. They should be challenged to leverage their technological capabilities to innovate and create new services driven by modern technology, focusing on convenience.
A concern, however, is the relatively slow development of more transformative Internet businesses in Barbados. Considering that there are over 10 000 active businesses in Barbados and the Internet has been around for over 25 years, one must wonder what is holding back more significant digital entrepreneurship. The consequences of not embracing a more digitally entrepreneurial mindset could be severe, including further foreign exchange drain. For instance, local businesses using foreign platforms for advertising to Barbadian audiences essentially translates to spending foreign exchange to earn local dollars. This is an inefficient economic practice that can lead to deeper consequences, such as job losses and economic contraction.
Steven Williams is the executive director of Sunisle Technology Solutions and the principal consultant at Data Privacy and Management Advisory Services. He is a former IT advisor to the Government’s Law Review Commission, focusing on the draft Cybercrime bill. He holds an MBA from the University of Durham and is certified as a chief information security officer by the EC Council and as a data protection officer by the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB). Steven can be reached at: Mobile: 246-233-0090 Email: [email protected]