Today is 11/11/11. The day the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) last year promised to deliver free Wi-Fi access island wide. The Foundation is pleased to report that despite not achieving its target of total island wide coverage that the island has moved from a position of about 1% free wireless access to almost 60% access.
The ‘11.11.11 Wi-Fi Barbados – Wi Not’ initiative is a project of the BEF’s business facilitation pillar led by Chairman Melanie Jones, Partner at Lex Caribbean and the First Vice President of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA). This achievement to date is significant for the Foundation and with the cooperation of corporate Barbados and private individuals, has made major inroads into closing the digital gap between the haves and the have-nots. It has also made the island a more welcoming place for visitors who seek refuge in connecting with their work and families once reaching port. Adding significantly to Barbados’ attractiveness.
CEO of the Foundation, Damian McKinney noted that today’s 11.11.11 target date is a critical one in the development of Barbados as a business hub. He said, “the project is fundamental to propelling Barbados to the center of global business with the incremental proliferation of free Wi-fi hotspots, which in turn will enable new business opportunities and innovations.” He highlighted that while Barbados enjoys a literacy rate of an estimated 99.7%, it is now an indisputable fact that Internet literacy is the new necessary paradigm. Indeed, IT capability and capacity is the single most important transformational force that Barbados can harness, now, when seeking to compete for the lifeblood that is global market share.
During the project countdown, key landmarks were achieved with support from corporate Barbados. Lex Caribbean was one of the keys to unlocking the success of this initiative when in May they created a guest network accessible up to one kilometer West and North of their offices in Worthing, Christ Church. With Lex Caribbean the issue of security was extensively researched. They confirm they have had no compromises to their own internal speeds and functionality since doing this. Moreover, they are throwing a signal that can be accessed some distance from their office. They have received no complaints or concerns about any adverse impact upon other operators within the same band. Other success stories include important mushroom sites like Bougainvillea Beach Resort, and the Crane, St. Philip that enjoy greater guest satisfaction on TripAdvisor.com which is attributed to their connectivity.
The BEF strongly believes that Barbados can develop a highly favourable business environment in which domestic and foreign entrepreneurs can prosper, with all the attendant benefits for Barbadians. These benefits include employment and training opportunities, especially valuable in the wake of the economic collapse and particularly relevant to an island producing many more higher education graduates than jobs suitable for them and where the professions are becoming saturated. Other benefits are increased income for the government arising from new sources of VAT, PAYE and corporation tax revenue. Foreign exchange earned by entrepreneurs selling into the global market will also be vitally important. This is why the BEF sees inherent in the development of entrepreneurial business a vast, hardly tapped potential which, when unlocked will bolster our economy against crises such as that which currently confront us, and most of our global neighbors.
The BEF is also working to Wi-Fi all of the Community Centers. So far fifteen of the community centers have been furnished with the necessary equipment and have fully operational free Wi-Fi networks. It is ready to launch the networks of all of the other centers, with the ongoing cooperation of the Director of the Community Development Department.
The Foundation believes, free internet access is an as imperative to global competitiveness driven by entrepreneurship. This will be a key to stimulating the economy and unlocking the full potential of a small island state whose revenues are currently largely based on tourism and international business. The future of any entrepreneurial economy will hinge on the ease with which the entrepreneur and its customers can access and navigate the information super highway.
The Wi-Fi project has been made possible through the support of Government, Private Sector, Public Sector, Labour and Telecommunications providers.