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Jamaica 2018 | IT & BPO | REVIEW

Jamaica's telecommunications sector has been steadily growing over the years, and with recent trends in the US favoring BPO that is closer to home, the sector is poised to take off.

Jamaica is well on its way to becoming a leader in BPO throughout the Caribbean and North America. The country has several advantages it has been leveraging in recent years to build its sector, and a growing amount of support from the government will likely mean that the region will increasingly turn to Jamaica. In addition to being the third-largest English-speaking country in the Western hemisphere, the country also has a widely educated work force, much of which has been oriented to working in the service industry. With Jamaica's proximity to the US, it has in recent years rapidly grown as an outsourcing destination, with companies even relocating call centers and other services from India, the Philippines, and Latin America to Jamaica.

Liberalizations to the telecommunications industry at the beginning of the 1990s quickly led to competition between the country's two major providers: FLOW and Digicel. Though Jamaica's telecommunications infrastructure has developed its BPO industry thus far, it is still lagging far behind first world countries. The country's internet penetration as of 2014 rate stood at 53.6%, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Much of the population that does access the internet does it through mobile phones or at work or school.
TBY sat down with the Managing Director of FLOW, Stephen Price, who highlighted the country's development plans for increasing penetration. “Compared to traditional, (developed) markets, our internet penetration levels are low," Price said. “However, we have made investments to ensure we are laying the backbone for internet penetration, which means each and every part of the island, rural and urban. In 2016 that investment also saw us bringing high-speed internet of a minimum of 25MB/s speeds to 150 communities."
With every little advancement in telecommunications infrastructure, BPO grows by leaps and bounds. The growth of the industry is so profound that many believe it has the ability to reshape the island's economy. Already, the industry has made significant dents in unemployment. When TBY met with Odetta Rockhead-Kerr, the president of Sutherland, an IT services management company, she spoke of the rapid growth his company has seen. When the company started in 2012, it employed just 1,000 people; within just five years, the company has now grown to 5,000 employees. Rockhead-Kerr attributes the growth of Sutherland in Jamaica entirely to the country's compatibility with the BPO sector. The sector has seen more growth than any other in recent years, and is on track to become the most invested in as well. The government is also behind several initiatives seeking to increase the role of BPO in the island's economy. The Business Process Industry Association was created five years ago as an organization to help educate government officials and policy makers on the workings of call centers and the needs of the industry. Together with JAMPRO, an agency of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Promotion tasked with promoting business opportunities and exports, the Business Process Industry Association has been leading government policy and has already diminished numerous barriers to foreign investment for BPO.
Though progress in the industry here has been promising, many still consider the government's role smaller than it should be. The government could increase its funding to agencies like JAMPRO to boost the country's reputation and spread the word around the region of all the advantages it has to offer. It could also work to develop telecommunications infrastructure throughout the country, raising penetration, laying fiber-optic cables, and allowing the fruits of the growing BOP industry to grow beyond just Kingston, Montego Bay, and Spanish Town.