Sun | Aug 9, 2020

Growth & Jobs | COVID-19 is an opportunity to digitise key economies – Hines

Published:Tuesday | July 7, 2020 | 12:00 AM

Tamique Hines, senior manager of software engineering at MC Systems Ltd, has said the COVID-19 pandemic is helping to create a digital revolution in Jamaica, which can assist in revitalising the country’s economy.

“There is certainly an opportunity for the digitisation of key economies, especially those that we rely on heavily,” Hines said. “Digitalisation has been a buzz word for a while now, and I believe that what COVID-19 has done, is to force the process to take place even faster.”

She made the point while addressing the JN Bank’s ‘Redesigning Your 2020 Goals’ online series. The social media discussions, which started on May 21, will continue to July 9. The sessions promote practical conversations about how Jamaicans can maintain or adjust their plans, based on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hines said one such area is the remittance sector. “We saw the need being highlighted during the lockdown of St Catherine, when we had large crowds gathering at our remittance companies. Therefore, this is a big opportunity for us; and it’s time for us to examine how we can properly digitise these services.”

She noted that the digitisation of some sectors would also lead to the expansion of certain services and additional training of segments of the workforce to adapt more technical and digital skills.

“The mere fact that a lot of us are now working remotely from home gives us an opportunity to train more persons in the usage of online services, which will lead to further development of our workforce. This, ultimately, reaches back to greater growth for Jamaica,” she advised.

Distance Learning

Online or distance learning is another area of focus, Hines pointed out. “With this platform, you have greater reach; and with the opportunities now available, our people will need to improve their skills. We have the platform that will allow us to share the knowledge and also allow persons to upskill remotely,” she added.

The software engineer noted that this also gives Jamaica the opportunity to further address the issue of Internet access.

“Why? Because during the lockdown, we saw that there were many persons who did not have the devices, or even the access to data. Hence, COVID-19 brought this to the forefront; and if we are to take advantage of the opportunities that have presented themselves, then we must work at fixing this, so that some persons aren’t left behind,” Hines informed.

Frederick Pragnell, head of digital banking at JN Bank, said that Jamaica is ready to move even further ahead into the 21st century.

He noted that digital innovation has become ubiquitous, with many nations, such as South Korea and Australia, actively working to create ‘cashless societies’, and where remote work is the norm.

Pragnell said the COVID-19 pandemic has made the value of digital transformation even more obvious to society.

He said Jamaica could also take on the challenge of the transformation. “We have seen an increase in Internet penetration, and we have a smartphone penetration of approximately 111 per cent. This highlights the fact that we have the infrastructure here; and we certainly have the will. Jamaicans are clearly not technophobes; therefore, the population is ready, and I believe that businesses are now prepared to capitalise on this,” he affirmed.