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Development strategies for the information and communications technology sector in the Caribbean: A global perspective

2014-12

LC/CAR/L.460

.--Executive summary.--I. Introduction.--II. India: A global leader in offshore services.--III. Silicon Valley: venture capital-backed entrepreneurship.--IV. Estonia: A small country with large technology footprint.--V. Conclusion.--Bibliography

This occasional paper examines the experiences of three leading global centres of the ICT industry – India, Silicon Valley, and Estonia – to reflect on how the lessons of these models can be applied to the context of countries in the Caribbean region.Several sectors of the technology industry are considered in relation to the suitability for their establishment in the Caribbean. Animation is an area that is showing encouraging signs of development in several countries, and which offers some promise to provide a significant source of employment in the region. However, the global market for animation production is likely to become increasingly competitive, as improved technology has reduced barriers to entry into the industry not only in the Caribbean, but around the world. The region’s animation industry will need to move swiftly up the value chain if it is to avoid the downsides of being caught in an increasingly commoditized market. Mobile applications development has also been widely a heralded industry for the Caribbean. However, the market for consumer-oriented smartphone applications has matured very quickly, and is now a very difficult sector in which to compete. Caribbean mobile developers would be better served to focus on creating applications to suit the needs of regional industries and governments, rather than attempting to gain notice in over-saturated consumer marketplaces such as the iTunes App Store and Google Play. Another sector considered for the Caribbean is “big data” analysis. This area holds significant potential for growth in coming years, but the Caribbean, which is generally considered to be a datapoor region, currently lacks a sufficient base of local customers to form a competitive foundation for such an industry. While a Caribbean big data industry could plausibly be oriented toward outsourcing, that orientation would limit positive externalities from the sector, and benefits from its establishment would largely accrue only to a relatively small number of direct participants in the industry. Instead, development in the big data sector should be twinned with the development of products to build a regional customer base for the industry. The region has pressing needs in areas such as disaster risk reduction, water resource management, and support for agricultural production. Development of big data solutions – and other technology products – to address areas such as these could help to establish niche industries that both support the needs of local populations, and provide viable opportunities for the export of higher-value products and services to regions of the world with similar needs.

Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL) - Biblioteca Hernán Santa Cruz

Mirian Ramirez

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