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Letter of the Day: Raise quality of Jamaica's IT industry

Published:Monday | November 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM


André Poyser's article in The Gleaner of November 25, 2015, with comments attributed to me, covers most of the salient points that came to me when comments were requested, but there is a missing link in the syllogism.

This missing link forms part of what the Jamaica Computer Society (JCS) has been saying for some time now, as a part of its advocacy for local IT professionals, some of which are providers of IT products and services.

The situation is usually, that while local companies do get contracts, they are of low value and usually limited to the provision of hardware and conventional-off-the-shelf (COTS) components with limited mark-up since these are 'commodity' components of IT systems, with little or no economic growth potential.

The dearth and, by extension, real growth potential remain in the high-value custom software and enterprise solutions which are usually predominantly imported. I think data from the NCC QCD will bear this out.

Apart from the tendency for organisations (both in public and private sector) to purchase core and enterprise software from non-domestic companies leading to flight of foreign and an underdeveloped local industry, a company is willing to pay US$3,000,000, for example, to purchase a software module or system from an overseas company, but when faced with increasing maintenance and customisation costs, they engage a local firm to rewrite the software (this is not usually the CORE business application, as that is usually exclusively entrusted to foreign companies). The local firm may then provide a quote for US$1 million. In this example, that is greeted with disdain as being 'too much' for a local company.

Application development

An economic stimulus to the IT industry must be targeted to build the enterprise architecture-building capacity that has been lost over the years (Professor Evan Duggan has spoken and written about this on several occasions). The focus on enterprise grade-application development will provide a niche in the local BPO market as players seek to move higher up the value chain.

It would engage developers and encourage them to better organise themselves and become more than just programmers but, rather, business analysts, software engineers, systems architects, and data architects.

It would prompt the tertiary institutions to produce more graduates in IT and develop ways to engage them when they graduate. It would attract FDI from companies seeking near-shore locations and operators, since Jamaica is attractive to North America, as well as others.

We could promote edu-tourism, where training courses are offered in Jamaica as alternatives to North American locations, especially for winter training periods. It may even beat Las Vegas as a 'go to' destination).