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Delaying with digital - Jamaica ranks 13th in region on evolution index

Published:Tuesday | December 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis
A Samsung employee demonstrates 'Samsung Pay' using a Galaxy S6 Edgeas a mobil wallet which is yet to take off in Jamaica.

Jamaica is advancing steadily and has made steady progress in the digital revolution in the past 10 years, but weak infrastructure and poor institutional quality are two of the factors causing the country to lag behind much of the region.

That's according to the latest Digital Evolution Index: Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Edition.

The index, which was compiled by The Fletcher School at Tufts University, in partnership with Mastercard, showed that Chile, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Mexico, and Colombia are the most digitally advanced nations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The findings were revealed recently at the 2018 Mastercard LAC Innovation Forum in Miami Beach, Florida.

The index, which uses data from 2008 to 2017, looks at the pace of digital growth in 24 LAC countries using four key factors: supply conditions, demand conditions, institutional environment, and innovation, to create an overall digital evolution score and digital momentum score.

With a score of 45.8, Jamaica is ranked 13 out of 24 countries, ahead of the countries such as Dominican Republic, Peru and Ecuador, but behind leaders Chile, the Bahamas, Barbados and Trinidad, among others.

Vice-president of cybersecurity at Mastercard, Jorge Arbesu, said the ranking points to the fact that Jamaica needs to accelerate its digital growth to become, and remain, competitive globally.




"It means you have to speed up. You have the opportunity to be leaders in our region, in our continent and throughout the world. The cool thing about the digital world is this, there isn't any other revolution before in which a country like Estonia could have been a world leader.

"Before, when the industrial revolution was set around being able to have ports and ship goods, you needed to be in the coast and you needed to have ports built and all that infrastructure to be built in order to be part of the revolution. with the digital age all you need is Internet, that's it, and then you can be a world leader," said Arbesu.

"So the opportunity is there. The problem is you are competing with everyone in the world. So if you have the infrastructure which you do, you have access to Internet, you have access to telephones, you have everything there, all you have to do is speed up, all you have to do is say, what am I doing to foster innovation?," said Arbesu.

The study also revealed that LAC had made improvements in telecommunications infrastructure over time; however, digital transactions infrastructure had not evolved at the same pace.

"I have a dog and when I go out for a trip and I want to find a sitter for my dog, I go online on an app and I can get that sitter for my dog. When I want to find a babysitter for my child, I go online to find a babysitter. That is innovation. It's people who sat down, understood the market complexities and provided solutions that enabled digital transactions. That's what we are lacking in Latin America.

"It is fostering an ecosystem of entrepreneurship that is starting to fill the needs. Not waiting for the Ubers of the world to come to our market or the Airbnbs to come to our markets, but fostering technology within our markets that understand the complexity of our markets to supply those needs," said Arbesu.

He argued that Jamaica needs to ask questions such as how many technology companies are coming out of the island to serve the needs of the Jamaican people.

"If that is on the lower end we need to do something to foster the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Mastercard is willing to help, to make sure that the innovators that are coming out of Jamaica, the people with good ideas and who understand technology, are able to build good solutions to foster that innovation and move along in the game," said Arbesu.




Dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, Dr Bhaskar Chakravorti, who was on hand to explain the findings which informed the index, said the region is experiencing a digital growth spurt.

According to Chakravorti, further research would be able to provide policymakers and businesses with insights to enable them to unlock the potential for economic growth through digital advancement in the region.

"The region is poised for consumption-led growth in the coming decade, and is expected to account for more than five per cent of global consumption growth by 2030. For this to be true, digital products and services will have to be a significant part of the consumption basket," said Chakravorti.

President of Mastercard's LAC region, Carlo Enrico, was in agreement that the region must close gaps in digital connectivity, financial inclusion, and infrastructure to improve its digital momentum.

"Improving the accessibility, convenience, and security of digital payments will accelerate the growth of Internet commerce and improve the digital momentum of the entire region," said Enrico.