Caribbean Nations Outrank India, Brazil and Mexico in ICT Readiness

The World Economic Forum’s release of the most networked countries in the world provides an interesting snapshot worldecom2222222222221of where Caribbean nations place among some well known ICT havens, some with far larger economies and populations. The report, sponsored by Cisco, is a graphic indicator of the powerful role of ICT as a catalyst for commercial success. Irene Mia, a senior economist of the Global Competitiveness Network at the WEF and co-editor of the report says the success of leading ICT nations (including perennial frontrunning Nordic countries, the United States and Singapore) is a reminder to public and private interests to stay focused ” on ICT as an important enabler of growth and competitiveness in times of crisis.”
Noteworthy in the results was the showing among leading Caribbean nations, most of whom continue to place ICT initiatives high on the investment agenda. Barados ranked 36th, Puerto Rico (42), Jamaica (53) and Costa Rica (56). Famous members of the BRIC clan – India and Brazil – ranked at or below the level of the leading Caribbean countries. India was ranked at 54 (falling four spots from last year) and Brazil came in at 59. A clear disappointment were the showings of Mexico and Agentina: both fell down the index to place at 67 and 87 respectively.

Off Hours: Soup Bowl in Barbados Gets High Marks from Surf Legend

Soup Bowl on the East Coast of Barbados is 23 kilometers from Bridgetown

Soup Bowl on the East Coast of Barbados is 23 kilometers from Bridgetown

Much like parts of the North Shore on the main island of Hawaii, the East Coast of Barbados still has an atmosphere of remoteness. Single track roads with drive-up beer stalls, family run stores and spartan acommodations make these destinations appealing to anyone who wants refuge from the hyperkinetic first world societies. (BTW, Another quality getaway in this category would be the southeast section of Japan’s Kyushu island, home to the mini-surfing capital of Miyazaki.)

The overlooked east coast of Barbados is starting to get front page attention – like this piece in the Travel Section of the New York Times – and for good reason. Kelly Slater, one of the world’s greatest surfers, places Soup Bowl in Barbados as one of the “top three waves in the world.”

Client-Service Focus of ACS Won Over Casserly

Call center agents and managers at e-Services sites in Jamaica and St. Lucia can rest easy during the ACS ownership transition, says Patrick Casserly, the Jamaica entrepreneur credited for putting Jamaica’s customer service industry on the map. Casserly explains in a story in the Jamaican Observer that ACS’s commitment to client service contributed to his decision to sell the company – announced this week . No staff cuts are expected and, in fact,

Casserly (second from left) will become part of the new ACS management team

Casserly (second from left) will become part of the new ACS management team

there is growing expectation that ACS will continue to expand its presence in the Caribbean based on factors which include close proximity to the United States, an increasing population of skilled workers, government incentives and a thriving interest among its client-base for offshore CRM options.

Outsourcing Will Thrive During Recession, Analyst says

datamonitor22222222221Datamonitor analyst Peter Ryan, who by the way is one of the better CRM/BPO analysts on the planet, makes a convincing argument here that outsourcing is likely to thrive during the global recession, especially among technology firms whose margins are typically constrained.

Off Hours Pick of the Week: Otherworldy Accomodations in St. Lucia

jademountain1Jade Mountain Resort is not your typical five-star Caribbean paradise. Situated among mountain peaks in tranquil Soufriere, St. Lucia, arriving at JMR is like parking your sandals on another planet. If you’re into infinity pools and otherworldly getaways, this is your place. Consulting Chef Allen Susser orchestrates the Mango Madness Festival from June 5-7, where the focus will be on the 1001 Things You Could Do To a Mango Before You Die. If you decide you need to get some real work done on St. Lucia, then you’re in luck. There are a couple of contact center operations based in St. Lucia – just call ahead if you plan to visit. At over US$1,000 a night, staying at JMR on a business trip will require of course some crafty handiwork on your  expense account. For the full effect, check out the video link.

The Emotional, Reactive Underside of the Outsourcing Debate

When I landed in Barbados to take a look at hiring a local call center, the last thing on my mind was whether I would be displacing American workers in favor of Caribbean workers. My job at the time required me to find the best contact center provider at the best price. Period. Like so many before me and after me, I was on a mission to provide better value for my company and I would go just about anywhere to deliver on that objective.(More on “my story” in future posts.)

globalization2222222222That’s the part that I find missing in the great, renewed debate about “offshoring US jobs.” There is understandable angst about US jobs going overseas, but when we look at the functions of a contact center we’re ultimately talking about how to make the sponsoring client stronger. Whether Verizon, Delta Airlines or multiple other Fortune 2000 firms, these organizations are in business to service shareholders with an overriding goal of producing profits and creating products that engender long-term value. Yes they are American companies, but each operates in intensely competitive industries that require creative approaches to meet customer requirements, grow market share and craft and roll-out innovative services.

When customer service executives representing US companies show up in MoBay’s tax-free zone, in the streets of San Juan, or down in Bridgetown, their focus is on extending and reinforcing the relationship customers have with their brand. It’s not a question of jobs, it’s a question of providing globalized tools to meet the global market conditions of the 21st century.

There are obviously undercurrents of prejudice and protectionist hostilities running through this debate. Bob Evans, senior VP and Global CIO at US-based TechWeb shares some candid remarks on the incredibly important role global partnerships and collaborations deliver back to US firms in a post sent out today.

In the reactionary tones of the outsourcing hysteria, it will be interesting to see if there are new classifications in the  works to portray friendly neighbors like Puerto Rico as more pleasing to do outsouring business with rather than a Jamaica or Dominican Republic? Our suggestion is to stick to rational facts – examine hard data and hard dollars in your evaluation of potential partners. The emotion of the day will eventually subside, but will business leaders see through the current discord with enough dispassionate clarity to make sound judgements?

Pan Am Cable Gets Capacity Injection

bbbbbbbbbbb2The ten-year-old Pan American Cable System, an undersea telecom pipe covering over 2,000 miles stretching from the Pacific coast of South America across into the southern region of the Caribbean, will undergo a significant upgrade before the end of the year.

Eleven telecom providers and sponsors, led by Japan’s NEC, are funding the venture which will boost capacity to multiple 10 Gbps wavelengths, meeting the same level of capacity provided in other parts of the world.  Current landings are in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Aruba and the US Virgin Islands. Growing demand in the Caribbean and Central and South America are contributing to the decision to boost the bandwidth on the pipes.

Casserly’s e-Services Group Becomes Part of Global Giant

Today Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services announced the purchase of e-services Group International, for $85 million, including the assumption of liabilities. The news is seen as the first major indicator of  a growing appetite among global players to leverage the emerging strengths of the local call center market. The significance of the acquisition is not lost on the 4,000 highly trained employees, based in Jamaica and St. Lucia. When rumors of the deal began to circulate weeks ago, some employees expressed fears about how the deal might impact them.

333333333333333332A primary focus for Patrick Casserly, CEO of e-Services Group International, has been to develop and invest in agents. “In the United Stages, the call center industry is built on churning staff. Churning staff means that they probably have 70-80 percent attrition every year. At e-Services I took a different approach. I said OK we are going to provide quality employees and how do you do that is to retain them over time. So some of my ver first employees, hired six years ago in the first 35, are still with us today and we have less than 10 percent attrition per annum,” Casserly said in an interview with the Jamaican Gleaner three years ago.

ACS operates over 120 customer care centers around the world in over 20 languages.



Who will Light the Spark that Ignites Regional ICT Investment?

The voices calling for a more comprehensive, regional approach to ICT investment are growing – but who is really listening?
Let’s take a minute to look at what’s at stake. In the global economy, nations that commit to creating an environment that embraces technology are those most likely to attract new investment which, when managed properly, creates flourishing industries and stimulates employment for a wider population.

Micheal Stern

Micheal Stern

Higher wages, improved education systems and raised living standards are symptomatic of this evolutionary process.
Although we’ve heard for calls of regional ICT cooperative investment before, comments this week by Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Michael Stern were particularly on target.

He is absolutely right to point to the tiger economies of Southeast Asia as exemplary pioneers in driving a unified approach to funding a ICT vision that is formidable, long ranging and meets the demands of the 21st century. Mr. Stern can’t do it alone. We need more visionaries like him who see the upside.

The time has come for Caribbean political leaders to change the nature of the argument – moving away from perceived deficiencies (high costs and lack of educated knowledge worker class) – and standing together to point the way to a more robust future built upon deeper broadband penetration, cheaper PCs and the energy requirements to power this transformation. The potent Caribbean call center industry offers a glimpse of what’s possible. We just need more people like Mr. Stern to show the way.

Off Hours Pick of the Week: Sir Viv Richards as Temperance Ambassador

The legendary Cricket master Sir Vivian Richards has teamed with Johnnie Walker, the world’s best-selling brand of Scotch whisky, to stress the importance of knowing your limits. The campaign is an enlightened step and we applaud both Sir Richards and the Johnnie Walker marketing brand leaders for taking a visible role to help reduce drinking and driving hazards.

Now that we’ve addressed the serious issues, ease back and enjoy the skillful play of Sir Richards on the pitch.

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