THE Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) is moving to embed greater use of technology to drive innovation in its delivery of services to clients.
The State agency responsible for supporting the growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) has, since the novel coronavirus pandemic, pivoted significantly to fast-track its digital transformation objectives.
Executing over 100 webinars, online forums, and business dialogue and other coaching and advisory sessions over the last two years, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Harold Davis said the JBDC, like many other businesses, has become very focused on delivering best in class and innovation-driven solutions to the clients it serves.
"Innovation for us is a part of our DNA and we see it as a driver of our businesses. JBDC has been involved in a digital transformation for a while but this was accelerated during the COVID period when we moved a lot of our products online and also moved to develop the capacity internally to do so.
"We have raised our level of efficiency in dealing with clients by introducing new software and involving them in the process of digital transformation so that we can be able to better respond to their needs in real time," Davis said at a recent Jamaica Observer Business Forum.
With the roll-out of a market access e-commerce platform, the entity has also opened new avenues for clients to expose their products to international markets and to extract increased revenues. Following the launch of the e-commerce product, through which the JBDC also sells its 'Things Jamaican' products, it has on offer over 2000 products on site, providing market access and retailing opportunities aimed at promoting brand awareness. Things Jamaican, the retail arm of the JDBC, sells a wide range of products including food, processed goods, fashion accessories, home dÃ©cor and other fine art pieces of authentic origin.
"This is a big innovation for us and we are currently looking at all the various market access points to get our local businesses onboarded," stated Janine Fletcher-Taylor, manager of market services unit at the JBDC.
Through another initiative done in partnership with the Organisation of American States (OAS), the JBDC, under the 'Accelerating MSME Growth through Innovation and Technology Programme' which is funded with approximately US$228,000, also seeks to strengthen its digital and innovation capabilities.
The project, designed to encourage MSMEs' adoption of technology, aims to further improve business competitiveness and market reach as it boosts productivity and enhances businesses' resilience. The intervention includes the upskilling of entrepreneurs and creates channels for onboarding to existing e-commerce platforms while developing a digital business service platform for MSMEs. This platfrom will utilises artificial intelligence to leverage data to inform business strategy at the micro level, and policy implementation at the macro level.
"Having gone through the pilot phase with the OAS we are now developing our own online training platform, and this will serve a dual purpose in fulfilling Government's attempt to digitise the services offered by public sector entities as well as putting in the direct hands of MSMEs the opportunity to access greater hand-holding support and training at their own pace.
"We are now initiating the programme and, based on our projection, we should be able to increase the number of MSMEs that we provide services [for] to 50,000 by 2024. At present we are averaging about 5000 MSMEs on an annual basis," said Amanda Mckenzie, manager in charge of the JBDC's project management and research department.
Touting its effective digital and virtual engagement of clients since the pandemic, the agency said it has seen significant increases, upwards of 450 per cent, in the number of clients as it continues to utilise more channels to reach them.