IDB Official Emphasises Importance of Technology to Move Economy Forward

Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson General Manager of the Country Department, Caribbean Group, at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Therese Turner-Jones (second right), in conversation with fellow panellists following a plenary session at the recent Jamaica Investment Forum held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James. From left are Chief Executive Officer, eGov Jamaica, Maurice Barnes; Director of Information Technology, Jamaica Public Service Company Limited, Donnelle Watson-Banks; Managing Director, Flow Jamaica, Stephen Price; and Chief Executive Officer, Fujitsu Caribbean, Mervyn Eyre.

Story Highlights

  • General Manager of the Country Department, Caribbean Group, at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Therese Turner-Jones, has underscored the importance of technology in creating sustainable and vibrant economies in the region.
  • Addressing a plenary session at the recent Jamaica Investment Forum at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Mrs. Turner-Jones pointed out that adaptation of technology could put the Caribbean on a more efficient and prosperous path.
  • “The IDB is set at improving lives in the Caribbean by creating resilient, sustainable, vibrant economies where people are safe, productive and happy, because we are addressing some of the challenges,” the General Manager said.

General Manager of the Country Department, Caribbean Group, at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Therese Turner-Jones, has underscored the importance of technology in creating sustainable and vibrant economies in the region.

Addressing a plenary session at the recent Jamaica Investment Forum at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Mrs. Turner-Jones pointed out that adaptation of technology could put the Caribbean on a more efficient and prosperous path.

“The IDB is set at improving lives in the Caribbean by creating resilient, sustainable, vibrant economies where people are safe, productive and happy, because we are addressing some of the challenges,” the General Manager said.

Mrs. Turner-Jones argued that technology is a key factor to accomplish those objectives.

“When we look at a country that is moving really slowly and those that are really on the cutting edge and moving very fast, the big difference is technology use and adaptation. We are living in a world where things are moving at an exponential rate, and to get to that exponential path, it takes some big decisions and we have to take them early and right now,” Mrs. Turner-Jones reasoned.

She said the emergence of systems and services, such as e-taxes, e-trade and e-voting are steps toward a digital economy.

The General Manager cited Estonia as a country that has gone the digital economy route, where all of its major services with the government can be done from a smartphone, laptop, kiosk or any mobile device in the country.

“A project which we believe will be a big game changer in Jamaica is the national identification system (NIDS), as we think it is going to bring more Jamaicans into the mainstream…. so the 40 per cent of informality that currently exists within the economy will be brought into the mainstream and more people will have access to services and education,” she said.

She said that Jamaica should consider effective ways of utilising the talents, young people, natural resources and other assets that do not exist elsewhere towards its thrust of becoming a digital society.

“The use of technology in the private sector is below where it ought to be, and we know, based on research, that 50 per cent of the jobs that exist today won’t exist in a couple of decades, which means that artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies should be considered in order to modernise how they do business,” she added.

Mrs. Turner-Jones pointed out that there are many opportunities in the digital sphere that companies such as Uber and Airbnb are utilising.

“These companies are making money by connecting information and people, not by actually owning hard assets. Uber is the biggest transportation company and it doesn’t own one taxi, and the same with Airbnb; it doesn’t own one hotel. So, we have to figure out what are those services that can be offered and how the Caribbean governments can re-engineer processes and tap into the many opportunities that exist,” she said.

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