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Look to ICT for growth, say experts

Published:Monday | September 1, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Edison Galbraith of Development Bank of Jamaica at Gleaner Editors' Forum.-Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
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Despite noted growth in the agriculture and tourism sectors, it appears that the future of jobs in Jamaica will be in sectors closely linked to information and communications technology (ICT). Running a close second in the job-creation line-up is the business processing outsourcing (BPO) sector, experts say.

Edison Galbraith, general manager of loan origination and portfolio management at the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), told The Gleaner that the ICT and business processing outsourcing sectors are now of significant focus for the institution.

Speaking at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum, Galbraith said that these industries were expanding rapidly and that the DBJ was not averse to investing in these areas.

"As it relates to the ICT and BPO sectors, those are areas that the DBJ has started to look into, and over the last two years we've had approvals of over US$23 million to create about 500,000 square feet of space for the sectors and that is expected to generate up to 11,000 new jobs," Galbraith said.

PIOJ expects upswing

Colin Bullock, director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), said at a recent press briefing, he expected to see an upswing in the fortunes of the ICT and other sectors going forward.

Anthony Hylton, minister of industry, investment and commerce, said work has already started to ensure that the BPO industry expands beyond Montego Bay, St James and Kingston, where it has largely been confined.

"The BPO sector is poised to generate, this year, in excess of 3,000 jobs. That sector is growing, the demand is strong, and our constraint now is how rapidly we can create space for it," Hylton said, adding that one particular company has decided to invest in excess of US$15 million to create a BPO centre in Manchester by year end.

The main services offered in the BPO centres currently operating in Jamaica range from finance and accounting, receivables and debt collection, inbound customer service, telesales, and marketing and technical support.

Statistics from JAMPRO indicate that in 2013, there were some 30 BPO companies operating in the country, employing close to 14,000 persons. The Government's plan is to double the size of the industry by 2016, with provision of 1.2 million square feet of BPO space.