Taking the Lead in Digital
As organizations around the world move towards digitization, Barbados is rapidly emerging as the digital leader within the Caribbean and South America. Indeed, behind the serene beaches and under the fields of lush cane, a digital heart is beating. Barbados already boasts the third best ICT network in the Americas – trailing only the US and Canada in the rankings conducted by the International Telecommunications Union – and is ranked as one of the Top 30 countries globally.
Access is universal. Thanks to a dedicated effort by Flow Barbados and Digicel, the country’s leading national telecommunications and mobile providers, Barbados was also the first country in the world to extend fibre optic access and coverage to 100% of households and businesses. Consumers can tap into speeds of up to 1GB per second, while businesses can secure even faster services supported by experienced technical service professionals.
The Technology Ecosystem
Thrives Barbadians are already world-renowned for their hospitality. And now they are also gaining a reputation as innovators and entrepreneurs within the Americas and around the world.
Take, for example, Bitt Inc, a Hastings based digital asset exchange which, earlier this year, was the first company to launch a digitized Barbados Dollar on the Bitcoin blockchain. Signalling a strong endorsement of the company’s development, Overstock.com (a leading US online retailer), recently committed to investing more than US$16 million into Bitt Inc., valuing the company at around US$50 million.
Innovation is also thriving on the consumer side, as Barbadian and foreign entrepreneurs work to bring the benefits of the digital economy to the island’s citizens, investors and visitors. BeepCab, a Bridgetown-based enterprise, delivers Uber-like connections to taxis and concierge services through an innovative, locally developed mobile app. Many of the leading supermarkets have offered online shopping for years.
A Supportive Environment
The Barbados Government has been massively and consistently supportive of the country’s developing ICT and digital ecosystem.
Foreign investors into ICT-related businesses enjoy some of the most encouraging tax incentives in the region and Invest Barbados has placed a high priority on attracting ICT-related businesses to the island. Many foreign-owned companies have already identified Barbados as a cost-efficient destination for a range of ICT-enabled activities such as call centre support, software development, transaction processing, database management and application development functions.
Government officials and policy have also been massively supportive of the growth of the digital economy. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future,” boasted Christopher Sinckler, Minister of Finance, at the announcement of Overstock.com’s investment, while also committing his government’s “full support” to driving Barbados into the digital marketplace.
To ensure that Barbados remains a safe and secure environment, the Government has also created a National Cyber Security Incidence Response Centre (BNCSIRC) in collaboration with the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Telecommunications Union. Leveraging a combination of public and private resources, the centre aims to bring Barbados in line with global cyber security requirements and expectations.
Leveraging Historic Strengths
Of course, Barbados has long been a top destination for foreign investors seeking world-class infrastructure. Foreign investors also look to Barbados as a ready source of innovative and educated English-speaking workers. The University of West Indies – Cave Hill, for example, offers a range of undergraduate and business-level programs in IT, computer science and maths.
As mobile and internet penetration rises and students become more technology savvy, Barbados seems set to capitalize on the newly emerging global digital ecosystem. Businesses in Barbados are also keenly focused on improving their ICT capabilities and capacity. Many of the country’s banks, financial institutions and service providers are also investing to improve their own internal digital skills and approaches.
Come to Work… and Play
Barbadians have always proven themselves to be creative, resourceful and reliable: winning attributes in today’s knowledge and skills-based economies.
It is not surprising, therefore, that foreign investors are looking at Barbados as a top destination to place their capital, their digital assets and their knowledge workers. Few other markets offer the same unique advantages of a strong economy, a vibrant workforce, supportive government policy and close proximity to key growth markets. And no other country in the region can boast a better ICT network.
Barbados may be where the world comes to play, but it is also the place where digital works.