Following from a suggestion by ECLAC, five benefits of having a Caribbean digital marketplace are discussed
Last week, at the fourth Latin American Telecommunications Congress in Mexico, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) called for the creation of a regional digital market. ECLAC was of the view that its creation would “enable increased connectivity for people and businesses, and facilitate the online exchange of goods and services”.
Although the comments were made at a Latin American event, and frequently when ECLAC refers to the Caribbean it means the countries of Central and South America that border the Caribbean Sea, and not necessarily the Caribbean islands, a digital marketplace could be especially beneficial to the Caribbean/CARICOM region. Here are five reasons
1. The global marketplace is big
First, have you ever tried to search the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores for mobile applications for a specific Caribbean country, or created by Caribbean developers? It is almost near impossible to get good results, unless you can search by a specific name. The search results will comprise products from all over the world, which may or may not necessarily have anything to do with what you are searching for. While it may be argued that the results are directly connected to the search algorithm employed, it also emphasises how large the global marketplace is, and the challenge of trying to spotlight niche products. It may thus be beneficial to create a platform where Caribbean products (and services) can be showcased, and for a Caribbean,.but also an international, audience.
2. Caribbean region is unique
On the point of niche products, it must be emphasised that although internationally, the Caribbean considered one unit, and the regional organisations and initiatives that have been established tend to reiterate that belief, that is really not the case. Each Caribbean country is unique, with its own strengths, challenges, idiosyncrasies, and culture, which also need to be considered and celebrated. A digital marketplace would be an excellent medium through which solutions and opportunities could be explored.
3. Can drive entrepreneurship and innovation
Further, in a digital marketplace where products and services that try to solve Caribbean problems and needs are showcased, the platform may inevitably drive innovation and entrepreneurship. One of the challenges of Caribbean entrepreneurs is understanding their market. Frequently, it tends to be limited to their country of residence, the market they know best, but could ultimately limit the overall viability of their offering. The product (or service) may also be needed in other countries across the region, which can open up new markets and considerable business opportunities.
4. Can focus development of the enabling environment
Additionally, the establishment of a regional digital marketplace can help policymakers focus on key inputs and drivers for its successful realisation, ranging from access and connectivity to Internet networks and services, to ensuring that the requisite framework for electronic transactions and payments exist. Currently and to varying degrees, Caribbean countries have not fully implemented that enabling environment. Hence in order for their citizens to successfully participate in that regional marketplace, and the opportunities that could eventuate, the requisite improvements must be made.
5. Could deepen regional cohesion
Finally, with the implications of the recently held ‘Brexit’ referendum in the United Kingdom beginning to sink in, the Caribbean is again reminded that as imperfect as our own regional arrangements are, they are crucial for our survival in this day and age. Not only does a regional approach benefit from improved economies of scale and scope, it also strengthens our presence and legitimacy on the global stage, To that end, a regional digital marketplace could deepen our relationship with each other towards a common and mutually beneficial good.
Image credit: Paul L Dineen (flickr)