Digital transformation is a must —IDB's Therese Turner-Jones

Digital transformation is a must —IDB's Therese Turner-Jones

Business reporter

Sunday, June 28, 2020

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has sprouted innovations and opportunities to combat its impact, digital transformation is necessary to aid countries' sustainability, according to Therese Turner-Jones, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) general manager and country representative for Jamaica.

“The question is what do we do to prepare ourselves to come out of this dark tunnel in a way that the region and the people are resilient and the resources are still somewhat intact and we are positioning ourselves to do better? Digital transformation, Internet and broadband access for everyone across Jamaica and the Caribbean region is not something that's nice to have but rather something that we must have in the future if we're going to be able to cope not just with global pandemics but also be able to sustain public and private services over this period,” Turner-Jones stated.

She made these comments at the Rotary Club of Kingston's virtual installation of its new administration on Thursday last (June 25).

“One of the most remarkable features of this pandemic to me in a place like Jamaica is seeing how quickly some businesses were able to go to a digital platform. We can have services delivered in a way that weren't being delivered before. We have seen in three months what generally would take some countries years to do and that exponential leap towards being able to deliver things in a digital way has to be part of our new normal,” she continued.

According to Turner-Jones, it is projected that the Caribbean will see a 3-16 per cent decline in gross domestic product, depending on the economy of a country and whether it is tourism-dependent or a commodity producer.

“The only country in the Caribbean region that will actually see any growth in 2020 is Guyana and even earlier projections for its growth was 85 per cent because of oil finds, and that has been reduced to 56 per cent and that is still large.

“So we have to brace ourselves for a lot of economic fallout in addition to the health fallout, coupled with climate change. We're in the hurricane season and projections for this season is very reactive. So these are the three main issues that we are facing”.

In April, the IDB conducted a survey of about 12,000 households across the region to figure out how they were coping in the pandemic. The results indicated that those of the lower income levels were facing far more serious and negative impacts than higher income households. Almost 37 per cent of households earning below the minimum wage were experiencing hunger, while close to 49 per cent reported having their diets changed significantly in that they were eating less or having less protein when compared to the pre-pandemic period.

There were also increased reports of domestic abuse and violence against women in households.

“As we come out of this pandemic, we ought to be thinking about what are those positives that we want to preserve. Leaping towards delivery of public services in a digital way has to be one of those, even in the private sector and the way they work. Adoption of technology and using it better and smarter, in addition to investing in disaster risk mitigation mechanisms and making sure that in addition to any health pandemic that may be coming in the future along with natural disasters that we are in a better position to deal with those, as we know they are coming,” Turner-Jones advised.

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