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Barbados Hosts Seminar To Boost Caribbean E-Commerce

Lisa Ugur, Tax-news.com, London

17 November 2000


Officials in Barbados this week announced plans for an e-commerce seminar that will provide Caribbean business with information on strategies to succeed in the e-business sector. The three-day event, called 'Implications of Electronic Commerce for the Caribbean - Vision for the 21st Century', will take place at the Sherbourne Conference Centre in Barbados from Novermber 21 to 23. It is sponsored by the Central Bank of Barbados in conjunction with Cable & Wireless, the Barbados Training Administration Division, the Centre for International Services and the Centre for Management Development (CMD) at the University of the West Indies.

At a news conference to promote the event, Dr Jeannine Comma, CMD director, said: 'We see the conference as the beginning of a process where we will be able to share that information that needs to be had by the public sector as well as the private sector as we move forward to take advantage of those global issues.'

Organisers say that e-commerce poses two major challenges for the Caribbean. The first is ensuring that maximum benefits are gained from e-commerce and secondly, it is important to be able to use e-commerce as a means to stimulate economic development in the region.

The seminar is designed to explore e-commerce from a variety of perspectives. As far as the private sector is concernced, it is intended to explore new opportunities for taking advantage of Internet technology to target new markets with a view to gaining competitive advantages. In terms of the public sector, the organisers say that consideration will be given to any changes in policies necessary to facilitate e-commerce as a key element of the development strategy for sustained economic growth.

For the Caribbean to grow as a centre for e-commerce, there are of course legal implications and the seminar intends to also focus on e-commerce law, exploring a model legal framework, intellectual property rights, Internet crime, data protection. Participants will also be adressing marketing/advertising and customer service strategies, e-commerce technologies as well as financial issues such as credit card and other payment transactions, taxation, funding and investments.

Manager of Cable & Wireless' Data and Internet Services in Barbados, Michael Forde, said that the Caribbean was ideallly suited to the development of e-commerce, given that the technological infrastructure was already present. He said: 'Most of what remains ... is to do with the education and making readiness of the business community. The technology and e-commerce platforms and so on as far as Cable and Wireless is concerned, they are already in place.' He added that the cost of Internet connection has also been declining.

Latest figures from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) show that 7.5 per cent of the Barbados population owns computers; 12.2 per cent in St. Kitts and Nevis; 13.6 per cent in St. Lucia and 0.5 per cent in Jamaica. These figures compare with a 50 per cent rate in the United States where e-commerce accounts for one per cent of the total economic activity there.

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