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Get tech night

We are delighted to welcome you to our new Small Business Association column in the Barbados Today electronic newspaper and hope that over the course of the months to come we would be able to educate you to what the association does, our vision for the micro, small and medium enterprise sector, and for Barbados as a whole. We welcome your views and remain accessible to all of our publics should you desire to comment on anything within our articles.

As an advocate of the MSME sector, sometimes we have to be fearless not only in putting forward our views but to let our voice be heard above the din. Indeed as an advocate sometimes we need to passionately posit a view even when others are focused on other matters. The ultimate intention of course is to effect some change.

So we have decided that one of the things we want to bring again to the public’s attention is an inadequate e-commerce apparatus in the Barbadian business environment.

Recently through the support of our industry partner, the Central Bank of Barbados, we were able to provide 50 of our members with websites as part of the SBA’s Tech Smart Website Project. Through this project we realised part of our goal of providing websites to all of our members by 2016. The websites have been designed with e-commerce functionality and social media interface, being cognisant of the needs of our member firms. The results are impressive and we are proud to showcase them to the world.

Above all we are enormously pleased that our members will now have a 24-hour store front for their business. We need to move our business sophistication up the scale. The reality of commerce in the global environment suggests that businesses close their doors at the end of the business day but their customers and potential customers are online, researching future goods and services to purchase and therefore an online presence is just simple common sense.

What particularly pains us at the SBA and echoed by many business leaders in Barbados, is the lack of a viable e-commerce platform available to businesses. We recognise that there are regulatory challenges and issues of security to be addressed but we think that the process is taking far too long to be resolved. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving ahead at significant speed with companies internationally doing huge volumes of sales online. One only has to look at the $289 billion in online sales transacted in 2010 in the United States alone. US consumers from the comfort of their homes, in 2010, spent over $1.2 billion dollars online on one day, Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving). One day! Reports suggest this has been trending upwards each year. The same happens in the United Kingdom, Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan, among others.

While local authorities are hoping to protect consumers from the scary world of e-commerce, Barbadians armed with their credit cards have been flocking online to make purchases with little fear.

So why then in a country where we are trying to encourage entrepreneurs to be innovative and to increase exports, we are limiting their ability and opportunities to sell to their customers? We have created the online store-front but our cash registers remain closed while our financial and legal luminaries grapple with simple business concepts and problems that the rest of the world has long since resolved and moved pass.

We need to fully enable our small entrepreneurs and businesses to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that e-commerce provide.

We can no longer think within our parishes or our seashore, we need to not only showcase our quality goods and unique services to the world, but we must be in a position to seize the sales opportunities.

The rest of the world is moving ahead and we are still trying to decide how to implement an economically beneficial technological solution. This is indeed a tragic state for us to be in.

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