Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Business process industry boss blasts telecom service providers

Published:Tuesday | September 13, 2016 | 9:00 AMMark Titus

Western Bureau:

Peeved by the recent inconsistencies in the provision of telecom services, the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), the umbrella organisation for the lucrative business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, is demanding an emergency meeting with the heads of telecom providers FLOW and Digicel.

In a letter addressed to Dr Andrew Wheatley, minister of science, energy and technology, and copied to Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), BPIAJ President Dr Guna Muppuri says his members have been facing tremendous issues with their telecom services over the past three months, with little or no accountability from the providers.

"Despite the liberalisation of the telecoms sector, Jamaica's telecoms cost remains one of the highest among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region - over 40 per cent more than its competing counterparts," said Muppuri, whose signature was affixed to the document, which The Gleaner secured through a usually reliable source. "A robust and reliable telecom infrastructure is critical to the growth and expansion of the BPO industry.

"And while we fight the struggle of high telecoms costs, we are unable to survive inconsistency in service and lack of appropriate accountability for failed redundancies," added Muppuri.

"We sell Jamaica as an ideal destination of outsourcing because of the labour pool, the infrastructure, the government support, and the incentives, [but] with issues such as these, it undermines our strength because the infrastructure is shaky and the Government is not holding those responsible accountable," continued Muppuri.

 

IMPORTANCE OF THE BPO SECTOR

 

The BPO sector, which is valued at approximately US$104.6 billion globally, has been identified as an important vehicle to grow the local economy, and, according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, could provide as many as 300,000 jobs over time.

The commercial division of both telecom giants have been battling for increased market share of the much vaunted BPO sector, offering cloud technology, data centre hosting, and other information technology solutions.

Digicel entered the local telecoms market 15 years ago, breaking a 140-year-old monopoly by British firm Cable and Wireless, a legacy characterised by poor customer service and high prices. After an unpopular rebranding to LIME, Cable and Wireless Communications acquired Columbus Communications in 2014 and began to use its FLOW brand as the consumer face for its services.

The BPO sector currently employs approximately 15,000 agents, half of the 30,000 jobs that the Government has projected by 2020, but Muppuri, who two months ago expressed confidence that the 43rd-ranked Jamaica can rival the might of India, the Philippines and Singapore to become one of the top 10 BPO destinations in the world, was quick to point out in his letter that such targets would not be achieved if there is not a united approach to correct the issues.

The Gleaner was unable to make contact with FLOW. But CEO of Digicel David Butler said, "We are committed to delivering enhanced service quality and reliability to our BPO partners. We have been in touch with them to address their concerns and will continue to work on achieving optimal network performance that meets their expectations."

rural@gleanerjm.com