Barbados Rapidly Losing Regional ICT Battle And Don’t Even Know It

Austin

Barbados is rapidly losing the regional Information and Communication Technology (ICT) battle with T&T, Jamaica and Grenada being increasingly recognized as regional nations of choice for international ICT business investment, this is due largely to investments these nations have made in their national ICT infrastructure. Barbados has been overly focused on the tourism industry to the detriment of many other industries like ICT, a pattern which must end.  Jamaica in the midst of their economic challenges have invested in creating a national ICT infrastructure that is now attracting international ICT investors like Digicel, which is now based in Jamaica but could/should have been based in Barbados.

What is the sense of having a well educated population if we don’t have jobs for our youth when they are done school.  It is as though we need a major shock to our idea of life and liberty in Barbados (which by the way is the only reason to vote for the DLP in the next general election).

We as a society still view diplomas on a wall as proof of a profession’s worth and as a result of this institutional thinking they are many young Bajan entrepreneurs and “doers” who will never get a chance to “shine”, just because they did not go to Harrison or Queens College or UWI.  If we as a nation are going to survive in the post-recession world, we have to change this mindset and way of thinking about education, for competitiveness sake.

In the ICT industry “performance” is king because at the end of the day the guy or lady who can solve (1) the problem, (2) keep the customer happy, and (3) be responsive to the customer’s needs, is the guy or lady who gets the job.

We have a large number of well-educated non-performers in key public and private sector positions in Barbados totally slowing down national progress“.

As a blogger who believes in providing solutions to the issues I raise, it makes no sense why major ICT international companies should be giving all the off-shores ICT business to countries like India whose first language is not even English.  Our government should be visiting major ICT international companies to demonstrate why Barbados is an ideal nation for at least a few of those global call centers that employ hundreds of workers.  Call Center ICT support services represent an ICT growth area we should be going after with our youth in mind.

The Barbados Small Business Association (SBA) recently went on record that Bajan small businesses should improve their utilization of ICT, but “how can they do that” with land sharks like LIME which has a monkey grip on our national ICT infrastructure and associate cost at all level?  Their grip has for years now had a stifling effect on the overall ICT industry in Barbados, and our ability to cultivate and grow ICT based small businesses in Barbados.

There is no reason why we cannot be a recognized ICT leader in the region, there is no reason why LIME and the like should be allowed to keep choking the life out our ICT potential, there is no reason why we should not be doing more than “taking photo opportunities at every turn to make the people think things are good”, while our most promising youth sit home unemployed or underemployed with no hope in sight.

Times have changed people…. The days when the US, UK was the migration destination of choice for many Bajan families to seek opportunities in life are “OVER”, ask any of the returning nationals landing at the airport.  In many respects life in the UK and UK is much harder that in Barbados.

We take so much for granted as Bajans, among them the fact that GOD has blessed us with a beautiful nation and no matter how hard our days or night may be … you can always grab a towel and swim suit and head to the beach to release it for a second, or go have a beer at “the big leg” bar” and play a game of dominoes, for just a few dollars.

We as a nation “MUST” take that final step out of the shadows of colonialism (tourism focused mindset) and create our own destiny.

0 thoughts on “Barbados Rapidly Losing Regional ICT Battle And Don’t Even Know It


  1. The people who are in charge of this country’s economic survival do not have a clue of what’s going on in the ICT world.

    Over $120 million has been allocated to Invest Barbados from its inception and not one single business has been attracted to Bim to provide jobs for young people in the ICT sector.


    • The rub here is that Barbados is suppose to have superior communications infrastructure, it is why we pay through our teeth for telecoms services. It is why our Internet penetration is one of the highest in the world. How the hell are we losing out to the other countries in the region that are suppose to be way behind us?


  2. Because as I stated ..”We have a large number of well-educated non-performers in key ICT public sector positions.

    For example: Just visit the BGIS website and in 3 secs you will realize that whoever is responsible for this government portal should be fired tonight, that simply. I have watched this wedsite flop around the internet like a fish that refuses to die.

    Just think of this … If FIO legislation is passed …. it would be another 8 years before we see postings online….


  3. Call centers are not the path towards development in ICT….quite the opposite. They provide employment but do not lead to the development of ICT skills. They also only last as long as the tax concessions or other favourable conditions that brought them here….at which point, it’s back to square one.

    Regarding LIME, take a look at the Hackathon they’re holding on Friday: http://www.lime.com/hackathon


  4. we lost the battle 20 years ago. . ICT is a wonderful “buzzword” for people in power, but very few if any in power really understand it or its’ use, far less listen to the technocrats who do. I’ll revisit this post after some spirtitual blessing. Have a great Sunday all


  5. As a Barbadian employed in the ICT sector living in the UK for the last 5 years, I must say that on my return to Barbados last year I was appalled by the lack of growth in this sector. A large part of this must be attributed to the goverenment and it’s dealings with C&W, now known as LIME. While LIME like to boast of the fibre optic infrastructure they invested in Barbados (no mean feat for such a small market I might add) that was done 5-6 years ago. Where has been the benefit? Call centres were once in abundance in Fontabelle…did the high price of leased lines run them away? While politcally, having Digicel’s headquarters in Barbados is seen as a feather in our cap, that’s not where the money is. Where are the digicel and lime datacentres? if they aren’t in Barbados, why didn’t we try to get that business considering our core fibre optic infrastructure. Again, did it come down to the high price of our infrastructure? It seems LIME thought they could invest in Barbados and then hold the entire country to ransom, asking businesses to pay prices that are too high. International companies have a lot more low cost options than 5 years ago, however, and Barbados as an option can be easily bypassed. The government needs to take a long hard look at the telecoms act and make some big changes to that legislation to make the country competitive.


  6. The ICT Sector like any other sector will product jobs at the low, mid and high.

    The other point about LIME is that we have not been able to generate pure competition linked to proper consumer behaviour.


  7. ICT is far more than call centres. I depict call centres as where they take intelligent youth and train them to be monkeys.

    The UK is waking up to the reality that clicking proficiently through Windows is not creative and something beyond that is required to close the skills gap that exists which forces industries to look to countries like India to provide the programming and development skills they require to survive.
    Enter the Rasberry Pi developed by smart guys here to provide a very cheap means of a learning and development platform to bring innovation within the reach of the poorest.

    My reservation is that the teachers in schools, colleges and Universities do not by and large have the skills to impart to their students. There was a recent report by UK industry on IT skills titled “Running on empty”.

    The ICT or IT structure in countries like India and Singapore is geared to providing consummate skilled professionals capable of design, programming and development if IT systems the world requires. That’s why companies from across the world flock to Bangalore each year to recruit staff and convinced a company like HP to set up a development centre in Singapore.

    It skills need to be developed from a young age in primary/elementary schools to provide the basis for ongoing education and the bedrock for providing industry with employees with the requisite skill set and the ability to adapt to changing requirements.

    In 34 years in the industry working in development, lecturing and supporting a goodly number of the largest corporations using IT it’s appalling to see the products of our schools, colleges and Universities emerging only with an ability to use Windows and with no skills other than producing application programmers for Windows.
    There are an abundance of embedded systems coming to market that require different skills, Field Programmable Grid Arrays (FPGA’s), etc. that appear in your car, TV set, washing machine, set top box and more. Smart knowledgeable people are required to be agile as the requirements change so rapidly nowadays.

    I’m 8 years into retirement and still keeping up with developments, 8 computers and an array of equipment, some sending me scrambling back through my maths books of over 40 years ago to get an understanding.

    Sometimes just having a PC at home and Operating systems software that is freely available on the internet, together with an enquiring mind is all it takes, ask google, ask RedHat and others. Matthew Sulzic started out configuring Linux in his bedroom at home for a proposed project, then saw an opportunity to turn it into a billion dollar business by starting RedHat.

    Why do I not see anyone from Barbados/Caribbean in any of the many software or hardware forums I frequent daily? Why do I see none contributing to those developments or even seeking help?
    That’s a way of getting the attention of companies looking to recruit talent. That’s why some monts ago I was offered employment by Google, sadly I had to turn them down as I’m happily retired and do this for fun, expanding my horizons and keeping up with the latest.


  8. austin I could not agree with you more. We are spending lots of foreign exchange money to Microsoft and other companies who are doing nothing more than simply configuring software in some cases just few clicks.

    The state of ICT in education in Barbados is atthe dinosaur age and all ofthis because alot of people are being put in position not because of competence but because of friendships. Take a look at the number of competent people acting in the role as ITC at schools or IT managers in Government. It is a friends thing while Barbados continues to waste more and more money without any clear or definitive goal.


  9. When policy makers see ICT as a cross sector tool of empowerment and a foundation upon which productivity and efficiency can be built upon rather than a bastard child that is called up when a report needs printing or analysis then we may actually make progress. Encouraging entrepreneurship, innovation and technology experimentation among our younger children (while backing it up with adult opportunities and professional mentorship) can also go a long way to getting us past the state of stagnation. Our national ICT strategy spans 5 years, 2 of which are already gone. In “technology” terms two years is an entire generation.


    • Is ICT captured in a national strategy at all?

      What would think it would be a natural fit given our heavy investment in education.


  10. Shannon wrote, “Call centers are not the path towards development in ICT.”

    Sid Boyce wrote,”ICT is far more than call centres. I depict call centres as where they take intelligent youth and train them to be monkeys.

    As usual the BU family nails it. One Toronto writer of Caribbean ancestry named them the modern day plantations.

    Knee jerk reactions will not create meaningful, good paying jobs. It is not too late to give scholarships in Computer programming, Industrial Design and Animation to Barbadian students.

    Target Industries based on what the average worker earns in that Industry and the profitability. Bajans in the diaspora work in the whole range of “ICT”. They are no more intelligent than bajans at home so give the youngsters meaningful scholarships.

    We already have enough Doctors,Lawyers and Priests.


    • @Hants

      Give the submission another read, although Austin recommends Global Call Centres is that where is suggestion rest?


  11. @David
    There’s a national ICT strategy, a section on ICT in the National Development plan as well as the MTDS, and the recent HR Strategy not to mention each party’s 2008 manifesto. Seems all well and good until we find leaders with the gumption to see it as a ubiquitous part of our existence and development rather than nice section for policy documents. To their credit there seems to be movement towards better integration in government, but alas, some 7 years after the fact.


    • @Hants Not sure what you mean. Barbados doesn’t have much of anything which can be described as industries.

      Besides rum it is difficult to identify a major ‘industry’ in Barbados.

      Perhaps poultry and dairy.


  12. Sid Boyce

    You turn down an offer from Google …? Now I know that you are NOT all together upstairs …! You should keep that level of foolishness to yourself man ( …give a shit how old you think you are …)

    In any event to add to what you have said, (LOL) animation is also part of the ITC campaign and Canada seems to be leading the way ahead of Japan and others. Is Barbados attempting some development in this area?


    • BAFPB, that’s right. After 43 years total on the move I don’t want to get into the daily routine of working again.
      There are too many things I had to pass up on and they keep me extremely busy every day, so even the attraction of Google and possible periodic visits to the West Coast wasn’t enough to fish me out again even if they offered to let me work from home.
      On reflection I should have agreed to see if I could have wangled another pleasurable visit to the Bay Area and the Valley.


  13. OK Shannon and Boyce clearly folks that sound like they understand ICT …. what do you see as ICT areas we can turn into JOBS looking to the future in Barbados?

    We have to become a society of problem solvers through dialogue … Which is why I try too allow provide answers or solutions to issues I raise ….


  14. There is no overnight fix. First you need teachers who are qualified and experienced. Secondly you need students who are curious about acquiring knowledge through curiosity and self motivation.
    It’s not just a challenge for Barbados, we have the same here in the UK as noted in the following reports..

    This comment has been posted as a separate blog HERE.


  15. Hi Austin,

    My quick answer to that would be that we should focus on encouraging our local brilliant minds to develop software….not just smartphone apps either (eventhough those do get a quick buck and fame)….but also enterprise software. While good (?) for tourism, millions of dollars are spent every few years by Government and the larger businesses to purchase software packages from overseas and pay the high fees of their consultants who come for a few weeks to set up the software. This leaves the on-staff IT burdened with the task of maintenance and training the other staff while also teleconferencing with the consultants who returned home months ago. This is a widespread practice throughout the Caribbean and needs to stop.

    We can develop our own software the same way that we write our own songs.

    How to encourage software development? Well, it’ll take some of what is needed in the other areas of the creative sector ie promotion and respect of intellectual property. One low-hanging fruit is that UWI and BCC students should definitely be entering the annual Microsoft ImagineCup Competition like students from Jamaica and Trinidad do every year. Unfortunately, despite the stalwart (?) attempts of some UWI lecturers, we’ve probably only ever had 2 teams progress in those competitions………and who knows where they are now?


  16. Call Centres have been described as “A Place where Dreams go to die”. The chances of major Corporations setting up Global Call Centre with positions which require very little technical skills in Barbados are slim and none, one of the major reasons the reasons can be summed in one word “Unions”. The people who make these decisions are well briefed on the political, social and labour climate of any jurisdiction they consider and Union(s) in Barbados have penetrated every sector of the labour force. Many of the workers are not afraid to down their tools/pencils if they so much as get a hangnail, these folks wouldn’t want to establish a Call Centre and the Union steps in to dictate how things should be run. They will take their businesses to countries like India which has large pool of willing workers who come cheap with no labour Union to contend with


  17. Too many square pegs in round holes. We are doing the same things we did when things were good and expect different results doing the same things now things bad. Ministers are Chairmen while PS’s are CEO’s.

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