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A digital Bim

I read that US retail sales rose by 0.8 per cent in July, the largest gain since February. My husband attributes part of that growth to the Bajans who descended on the US this summer.

Seriously though, as the US economy shows slight signs of improvement, we all wait anxiously wondering if this is the beginning of the end of the recession, since this will have a trickledown effect on the Barbados economy.

However, instead of waiting for the US economy and the economies of the European countries to rebound, how can we be proactive in stimulating our own economy?

I had a very inspiring meeting this week with a key member of a group of highly visionary Barbadian entrepreneurs, who have an exciting plan (soon to be launched) to do exactly that.

In fact, they are not satisfied with just “stimulating” the Barbados economy, their mission is to completely “transform” the Barbados economy over the next four years, with the help of Barbadians at home and abroad and with major involvement of the under-utilised and largely frustrated youth of Barbados.

He used the analogy of the fighter jet to demonstrate to me that Barbados is trying to fight an economic war with a single engine jet, while the “enemy”, our competitors, are using twin engine jets and are winning the war.

He pointed out that for all of our history, our industries (agriculture, manufacturing and tourism etc) have been focused primarily on producing physical goods and services which require huge investments in plant and equipment. That is the single engine we have relied upon.

While we want to continue to use that engine, he says that we need to get into the digital era and these young technology-focused entrepreneurs are preparing to implement a bold plan to launch into the rapidly-growing mobile marketing and commerce industry. While that in itself is exciting, there will still be the facility to make physical goods and services available to the Barbadian Diaspora and visitors, by providing them with the ability to make purchases through iPhones, iPads and other iDevices.

What I particularly like about their plan is that it is tangible, it is doable and the whole nation can participate, by telling people about the initiative through the use of their mobile phones and social media etc, and by offering products and services through the amazing mobile technology platform which they are leveraging and which will market Barbados as a whole to the entire world. The possibilities are endless and we can all get involved.

As we sat in a restaurant/bar on the West Coast, the Wi-Fi signal was too weak to be usable so we had to move to another location to be able to access a stronger signal so that he could demonstrate the infrastructure technology on his iPhone.

You know where I am going with this. We need to make Barbados 100 per cent Wi-Fi accessible if this initiative is going to be most effective and in fact if we want to be the No.1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the world by 2020.

Imagine a visitor sitting on the beach with his or her iPhone and they suddenly remember that last time they were here they had a great meal at Naniki restaurant in St. Joseph. They can open their Barbados app (which was been recommended by their travel agent or by their hotel), go into the restaurants section, find Naniki (and here is the great part) click on the phone number and call the restaurant directly and make a booking for lunch!

Then they may want to find out what’s happening in Barbados while they are in the island. They can just find Events on their iPhone and choose which ones they want to attend. Where to shop? No problem. Where to eat? No problem? Download a book written by a Barbadian author to read on the beach? No problem. Everything they want in Barbados at their fingertips.

But it doesn’t have to stop there. We can continue to earn foreign exchange even when they go back home by giving them access to both digital and physical Bajan products on their mobile phones 24/7/365. Suppose they suddenly have a craving for some delicious Bajan pepper sauce. They can go into their Barbados app, go to the store section, purchase the pepper sauce and have it shipped to their doorstep.

Will it cost a bit more? Definitely! But the same way we in Barbados use our Sky Boxes and various means to get products out of the US and are willing to pay for the privilege, so will they. The demographics of iDevice users indicate that they are generally people who have greater levels of disposable income and can therefore afford to pay a premium for the things that they need and want.

This high impact entrepreneurial team will be looking to recruit inspired “Agents of Change” worldwide to carry out this exciting Mission for Barbados and the mission is very possible.

* Donna Every is a motivational speaker, business coach and the author of the books What do you have in your house?, The Promise Keeper and Arise and Shine. She has a degree in Mathematics, is a Chartered Accountant and has an MBA. She is the Project Manager for the Education and Talent Development Pillar of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation.

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