Can End User Innovation Help Jamaica

Posted February 8th, 2017

By: Delroy Mclean, Director  Networking, Security & Mobile Workforce at Cable & Wireless Business

Anecdotally, the adoption rate of end-user technology in Jamaica is relatively high. There is a noted prevalence of the latest gadgets, cars, and music to name a few, and the demand for more appears to be growing.

The sale of these products and services continue to increase year and year, driven by consumer need, but how is this actually measured?

Are we really meeting the needs of our consumers or is our populace purchasing based on availability without true choice?

How do retailers make the right decisions on buying, selling and product positioning?

These questions are difficult and complex and the answers may lie in areas which we do not accurately measure and understand today. In the pursuit to further understand the adoption and buying behaviors of our people and the possible economic outcomes, the study of the Jamaican economy and its market influences has become a passion of mine and I have spent countless (and often times fruitless) hours scouring various sources for information on our local businesses. From my limited research, I believe that we currently make key retail market decisions based primarily on our best situational guesses or through an imprecise application of global statistics.

But why do we take this approach when other more mature markets do not face such struggles?

Take any trend in the United States, Germany or the U.K. today and you can find granular statistics that you can use for your own interpretation, but statistics in the Caribbean? Relatively nonexistent.  This I believe can be primarily attributed to the digitization efforts in more mature markets and that the costs of doing so in smaller markets such as those in the Caribbean do not justify the benefits.

We could argue that we are small nations, and thus we do not need to rely on statistics to instinctively know what is good for our economy, but that’s a narrow view of the global market in which we play. If our goal is to right our troubled ship, it is not enough to follow the trends, we must instead first understand our people, our culture, economy, and our capabilities in order to innovate and leap ahead to the next wave. Access to information and the way we use it is the key to our ability to achieve this objective.

The ITU website which leverages Google Analytics is one of my favourite places to shop for information, however, it is also a good example of what is wrong with the way we measure. For example, Jamaica boasts a mobile penetration value of well over 100% and yet the smartphones which we use to access so much information had an adoption rate well below the 100% mark. What does this say about how our end users actually consume technology? Are we really ready to innovate into the future?

The short answer: Almost!

As we continue the build out new infrastructure in support of our national development and improve the connectivity of our citizens we are faced with a fantastic opportunity to innovate our nation through analytics. Linked data in Government data warehouses, access to information initiatives and the emergence of Retail Analytics have created the near perfect ingredients for us to leverage. Key industries such as Tourism and Agriculture can utilize analytics to better understand local and visitor buyer behaviours on a granular per market level through the use of new public Wi-Fi hotspots integrated with private sector access – all possible with Retail Analytics. Government data warehouses provide us further insight into important connected information such as future traffic trends, new business needs, infrastructure capacity planning, access to the un-banked and more. By taking the time to understand our customers, we can more accurately predict their future buying behaviours and needs. Taking that a step further, we can then leverage data modeling to better predict our growth capacity demands on all supporting infrastructure and better understand our national capabilities. A great future vision, but we must first get started.

We could possibly begin with the accelerated deployment of technology with the needs of the end user in mind and allow our users to enable our innovation. It could be argued that the rapidly increasing rate of technology innovation today is fueled in large part by a new generation of end users who have a laser like focus on new ways to do old and new things. Regardless of the reason, however, we can all agree that there appears to be no signs of a pending development slowdown and the potential for the use of analytics to steer the growth of our country could be the best new shiny thing in our nation development toolkit.

But this potential also has risks.

Data must be interpreted and used correctly in order to drive the right outcomes. The application of facts versus desired facts is a real risk which could send us off a precipice or into a wall, rather than down the right path. We must ensure that we have the right tools and people t get the best out of our analytics and that we take a more holistic look at our rate of digitization so that the relevance and application of analytical data can be correctly understood.

Additionally, each day consumers readily share private information such as credit card details, shopping behaviours, their current location and more. Data, that in the wrong hands can leave them exposed. Furthermore, our local organizations store more and more information on our populace without a true understanding of the importance of the data and the risk posed to consumers by hackers, scams and more.

Securing this data gets harder every day and the longer we wait to being, the more costly and complex it will be. In my view, we therefore need to make a giant leap ahead in our recognition, thinking and planned actions in order to fuel the safe and viable digitization technologies (such as retail, hospitality and operational analytics) which our country needs. Accepting the benefits of analytics and data analysis opens the door for us to begin conceptualizing and implementing the technologies required to support its safe, efficient and effective use.

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