Digicel Barbados launches ICT centre in Oistins: Tax Incentives soon for Small Business using ICT

{EDITED REPEAT OF FEA. ADDRESS OF DONVILLE INNISS, MINISTER OF INDUSTRY AT DIGICEL’s CORPORATE INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE – BARBADOS HILTON, NEEDHAM’S POINT}

Given the dynamics of the ICT arena, particularly the application of new and emerging technologies, it is vital that on a regular basis businesses should showcase the importance of Information and Communication Technologies to society both in terms of their development and sustainability. Let me therefore at the outset applaud Digicel for this very timely initiative.

This lucky lady from the Urban Development Commission won a yet to be released in Barbados, Blackberry Z10 mobile from Territory Manager, Josh Zelaya

This lucky lady from the Urban Development Commission won a yet to be released in Barbados, Blackberry Z10 mobile from Territory Sales Manager, Josh Zelaya

It is common knowledge that ICTs are the tools for economic and industrial growth and are the driving forces for building a modern competitive economy and improving standards of living.

In addition, as our society is bombarded with new technologies such as smart phones, mobile banking and e-filing and other networking tools at an alarming rate, so too it is important for service providers to assist consumers in developing a critical understanding of these technological developments if they are to keep abreast of what is happening in today’s world thereby making informed decisions and choices for themselves and their families. Indeed, it is important that as we seek to actively promote information and technology solutions which can address some of our economic problems we face, that our customers remain on our radar.

The banquet was packed with companies and organisations who use ICT on a daily basis.

The banquet was packed with companies and organisations who use ICT on a daily basis.

I feel very confident that this will not present too much of a challenge since companies should be already aware that the bottom line cannot be achieved without the important investment in human capital and technology.

What you are doing here today suggests that Digicel is well aware of the role that it must play in the society and it also confirms that you are taking that role seriously and fulfilling your responsibility of ensuring that there is an improvement in the quality of life of Barbadians.

Tim Maher revealed to the audience Cloud Storage is so crucial these days that Digicel has a new website for potential customers -

Tim Maher revealed to the audience Cloud Storage is so crucial these days that Digicel has a new website for potential customers –

The formation of an alliance with Avaya and Research In Motion, a.k.a Blackberry, is to be commended since these two companies are respectively a leading global provider of business communications and collaborative systems and a telecommunications and wireless equipment supplier. I feel confident that this partnership will afford Digicel easy access into those markets where Avaya and Research and Motion already have a presence and the transfer of technology will be attainable. By extension our local telecommunications industry stands to benefit significantly as well.

It is these initiatives that will pave the way for the creation of a vibrant culture of information and communication technology; a culture that reflects the practice of applying ICTs to daily life, that will see the efficient and better use of new and emerging technologies to produce goods and services and will promote and develop a strong commitment among the public and private sectors to engage with ICT. Thus we may guarantee an improvement in the quality of life for our citizens.

From Left - Blackberry's Josh Zelaya, CEO of Digicel Barbados, Barry O'Brien & Industry Minister Donville Inniss comparing notes before the Conference officially begins

From Left – Blackberry’s Josh Zelaya, CEO of Digicel Barbados, Barry O’Brien & Industry Minister Donville Inniss comparing notes before the Conference officially begins

There are several examples of countries that have developed quickly and substantially by using the opportunities provided by information and communication technology principles. Nations such as Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia have improved their economies because they have all made it a policy to embrace information and technology in all areas of national development. The results are there for all to see and to copy.

Barbadians, both the young and not so young must continue to embrace and appreciate the concept that ICT is important to their well being and must be aware that the world we live in is constantly being moved forward at a rapid rate by the progress being made in the development of these tools. Barbados as a developing country with very few resources cannot afford to be left behind. It must be noted that countries rich in natural resources are not necessarily the most wealthy as new and more knowledge based economies are coming to the fore.

There was another Business card draw and this gent at Right won a package from Avaya as confirmed by the handshake of their Rodrigo Cuello (suited)

There was another Business card draw and this gent at Right won a package from Avaya as confirmed by the handshake of their Rodrigo Cuello (suited)

It is imperative that in articulating the immense value of information and communication technology (ICT) as a critical element of national development, each and every individual who is entrusted with a leadership role and is in a position to take decisions in the interest of the region must, whenever possible, seek to engender a greater sense of awareness among the general public and the business community to the numerous benefits that can be derived from the judicious use of ICTs to fuel efficiency, drive competitiveness, stimulate knowledge creation and sustain economic, social and cultural development.

As we transition to an information economy and a knowledge based economy, it is clear that a robust, cost effective communications system is at the core of all applications. It is the crucial factor in the implementation of every ICT solution for e-Government and e-commerce. In the past, telecommunication systems have been identified as a source of income for governments as a complex web of taxation and regulatory fees were imposed and often layered one upon the other. Such a system has added cost to communication and in some instances barriers to entry in the use of new technology that would otherwise bring benefits to the economy.

It is therefore crucial that from time to time to revisit the legacy systems that impede progress. Inadequate infrastructures, outdated and obsolete equipment, scarce financial resources, hierarchy of authority and lack of self-belief are relics of the past and should be removed as these are obstacles to the conduct of business and productivity.

Being cognizant of the principle that business facilitation lends to greater efficiency and greater profitability, a Trade Facilitation Task Force has been set up within my Ministry with a remit to reduce or curtail altogether those burdensome procedures and systems which are obstacles to productive business activities. This Task Force brings together persons from the public and private sectors to address the constraints of doing business and hopefully we can have a common approach going forward.

It is equally imperative that there must be facilitation of new investment in new communication technologies to provide the most competitive communications system to support our service economy. This would serve the basis for re-defining our business landscape with communication services featuring prominently which would be in harmony with the Government’s policy of removing obstacles to the inputs to production and the creation of wealth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the current recession has brought into sharp focus the need for the private and public sectors to work hand in hand to come up with the appropriate approaches that would allow Barbados to overcome the myriad challenges which confront our society.

Ex-Microsoft Jaggs Dass delivering his presentation outlining his plans for Digicel's new ICT centre in Oistins

Ex-Microsoft Jaggs Dass delivering his presentation outlining his plans for Digicel’s new ICT centre in Oistins

The Ministry of Commerce specifically and the Government generally have already been doing a substantial amount of work with relevant stakeholders to address all facets of the rising cost of living. The Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Barbados Agricultural Society, Barbados Customs Brokers and Clerks Association, the Barbados Association of Retired Persons and Non- Governmental Organisations are some of the entities that are fully on board with us in seeking to create the right enabling environment for doing business in Barbados. We are tackling issues of the clearance of cargo from the port inclusive of duties and related port handling charges, reduction in energy costs, reasonableness of mark-up systems employed by the business sector and the general facilitation of trade.

Central to all of this is the need for the consumer to be able to cope with the rising cost of living that has been in part occasioned by external forces of the world economy. In addition we also have to ensure that there is a measure of certainty and facilitation for new businesses to emerge and for existing ones to expand and thrive for the overall good of the country. I wish to congratulate companies like Digicel for responding to the reforms in the telecommunications sector and making a contribution by therein reducing costs.

On learning hw some participants broke or otherwise damaged their Blackberry Flash-Drive pens (2GB storage) Mr Zelaya gave a quick demonstration for the audience how to safely and swiftly open their Data-Pens

On learning how some participants broke or otherwise damaged their Blackberry Flash-Drive pens (2GB storage) Mr Zelaya gave a quick demonstration for the audience how to safely and swiftly open their Data-Pens

Permit me at this point to speak to a few initiatives which speak to Government’s commitment to ensuring a better standard of living and promoting the development of business ventures in this country.

Government has signalled its intention to reduce the cost of Internet and broadband access to householders by providing an income tax deduction for domestic Internet and broadband. We will continue to support any private sector entity that by its programmes and undertakings shows its desire to contribute to the continued growth of the telecommunications sector if only for the simple reason that we must be mindful of the need to protect jobs, improve efficiency in the conduct of business and generally to maintain stability in the macroeconomic environment.

I should also state that Government has pledged to provide fiscal incentives to promote the establishment of commercial ventures which will lead to the creation of a vibrant cultural industries sector, inclusive of the film and music industry. To this end, eligible businesses will be given a 200% income tax reduction on expenditure related to establishment of such new commercial venture. Many of these new operations will surely rely on the availability and use of digital technologies and easier and quicker access to appropriate telecommunication services.

Amendments will also be made to the legislation governing the Fair Trading Commission to allow it to effectively regulate all telecommunications entities operating in Barbados as well as the range of services being offered. Likewise, draft amendments to the Companies Act have been undertaken, which when legislated, will result in a dramatic increase in use of online transactions with the vital Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office.

NetApp is not a program to run on a mobile be they Android, iOS or whatever, NetApp is a means of storage and accessing the data when and how you want - as was explained by Ricardo  Vicaria

NetApp is not a program to run on a mobile be they Android, iOS or whatever, NetApp is a means of storage and accessing the data when and how you want – as was explained by Ricardo Vicaria

Also, most Government departments are at various stages of reviewing their telephony and general ICT infrastructure in order to obtain the most cost-effective, efficient and portable systems. This will result in huge financial savings to Government while improving upon business facilitation and customer service.

The Internet and other networking technologies can be used to enable small developing societies to benefit from new economic opportunities emerging from the global information economy. Developing societies such as ours can use these technologies to market and sell goods and services to a global market. Of particular interest for us in Barbados are the areas of tourism and related services, the offshore financial sector and entrepreneurship, whether small, micro, medium or large businesses.

A special treat lay in store for those adventurous enough at Lunch? Pickled Sea-Cat and very peppery, loved it!

A special treat lay in store for those adventurous enough at Lunch? Pickled Sea-Cat and very peppery, loved it!

The importance of ICT’s as drivers of development especially in the developing world cannot be overstated, they provide small island develop states with a spring board which will enable them to leap frog instead of struggling in vain to catch up with the developed world.

In order to compete in the global economy and maintain and surpass our current level of development, Barbados needs to shift to knowledge based industries; those that are delivering the fastest growth rates globally. The cycle of technology development and implementation is accelerating. The number of Internet users worldwide continues to grow steeply. More than 50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the major OECD economies is now based on the production and distribution of knowledge.

The new and emerging information and communications technologies (ICT’s) have created global markets for goods and services. The strong GDP of countries such as United States, Canada, Singapore and Malta is primarily due to the fact that these countries have encouraged their people, through education and life-long learning and investing in research and development and information and communication services.

Our productive sectors can only survive by competing through quality, novelty, and a diversity of products and services that can only be generated through innovation and continuous technological change.

As we move towards a greater regional economy, it is imperative that we do not lose sight of the need to elevate our services and product delivery and we need to understand that Barbados as a small developing state, can attain a competitive edge that may be hard to beat; in fact it may be that our small size and our unique traditions may redound to our advantage.

Digicel must be commended for continuing its engagement of the relevant stakeholders in order to accelerate the involvement of information technology in all aspects of the country’s social, cultural and economic development.

I look forward to hearing about or maybe even seeing the new microelectronic products that might be in use in the digital technology arena to address the changing needs of consumers and entrepreneurs in industries where real time is everything. I am told that there are technologies that can assist in the combatting of identity theft, technological products like “on demand” video for the sharing of visuals across business conglomerates and other smart applications of this highly dynamic age. I can assure you that I will make the time to look at your display of the available software or new telecommunication devices on display at this conference. I also eagerly anticipate outcomes of the various presentations and the sharing of experiences at the Conference.

In conclusion, it may be that Barbados is doing reasonably well in terms of seeking to bridge the digital divide and improve the quality of living for its citizens but there is still more to be done technologically.

The challenge for Barbados is very clear; ICTs must be embraced. Digital technologies offer a compelling way forward for our further progress. However, we must build our capacity, improve our infrastructure and align our digital technology strategies with our development strategies.

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