Jamaica the next tech outsourcing hub?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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Dear Editor,

In recent times, Jamaica has been experiencing economic growth not seen for decades. Led by government reform and improved fiscal discipline according (as noted in Bloomberg's report), the island could be on track to achieve its “Five in four” (five per cent GDP growth in four years) — an initiative established by Economic Growth Council to accelerate growth on the island.

A rise in interest from firms in the outsourcing sector, meanwhile, has been welcomed by ministers, who are increasingly keen to emphasise that such jobs are not “sweat shops” but pay well and offer career opportunities.

Jamaica sits within the Caribbean, a short distance away from the USA (under two hours to Miami by plane). This is where the appeal could begin for American firms looking to establish a technology outsourcing presence in the regions – with Jamaica being one of the largest English-speaking countries within close proximity of America. Having a very similar time zone to San Francisco's time zone (Jamaica is two hours ahead), the prospects seem plausible, given the reduced cost, location and language factors.

As one of the world's most naturally beautiful island, who wouldn't want to go on business trips to Jamaica?

Crime has clearly been a significant problem in the country within the past few decades, but it seems the Government understands the importance of addressing the issue head-on with the recent implementation of a national CCTV service entitled “Jamaica Eye”, designed to improve citizen safety, while a recent $64-million loan from the International Development Bank aims to digitalise government data and move it to the cloud.

If programmes such as this are successful and the islands improves its overall reputation in this area it could incentivise US companies in particular to set up tech hubs, much like in India and Eastern Europe to outsource work. However, with the time zone, language, and location of the island, this could prove to be an even more attractive location.

While there is work to do, the country seems keen to cash in on the island's locational and linguistic characteristics.

According to the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ): “Jamaica is currently one of the biggest BPO markets in the Caribbean and Central America region and the leading English-speaking countries in the region. To date, Jamaica's BPO industry represents nine per cent of the region's market. Operations in Jamaica range from data processing and customer care to full BPO operations such as insurance processing, tech support, graphic designing, etc.”

As the BPIAJ's President Gloria Henry recently told local press: “Employment in the sector has moved from 13,000 to 26,000, accompanied by a 75 per cent increase in exports and a 75 per cent increase in foreign exchange earnings. We are on a growth path — not just to improve the existing businesses, but to fill the almost two million square feet of space that is being developed in Jamaica.”

Whatever happens, if Jamaica is able to sustain its economic growth it is likely to gain substantial investment from its neighbouring countries. The extent to which this is driven by tech-based outsourcing remains to be seen, but the island nation clearly sees it as a core component of its continued growth.

Jamie Burton

jamiejburton@hotmail.co.uk

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