Government’s commitment to promoting, encouraging and facilitating the entrepreneurial ethos and ingraining it in our culture was flagged today, when Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, addressed the opening of the Barbados Coalition of Services Industries’ (BCSI) BIMTECH Digital Forum, at Sweetfield Manor, Brittons Hill, St. Michael.
The event formed part of the BCSI’s Services Weekend Barbados 2018, a two-day event that culminates tomorrow at the Mount Gay Visitor’s Centre, Spring Garden Highway, St. Michael. It looked at how technology would help reposition Barbados and revolutionize its economy for the future.
Hailing the recent disbursement of loans under the Trust Loan Fund (TFL), as an example of this, Minister Sutherland said: “As a Government, we are committed to implementing new and modern approaches in facilitating economic growth, while empowering Barbadians to become involved in business with a view to encouraging an entrepreneur in each household.”
Pointing out that the Fund’s office at Bridgetown had commenced the distribution of $10 million per year for each of the next five years as seed capital, he acknowledged that as at November 14, it had received some 835 applications for trust loans, of which 400 applications had been approved and another 435 applications were being processed.
Though registering satisfaction at the efficiency with which the new unit had disbursed the loans, the Minister said Government was aware how much faster funds could reach entrepreneurs if there was a movement from paper to a digital platform.
“We plan to be in the forefront of the digital transformation of Barbados and we are working assiduously to distribute these loans via a digital platform by the beginning of 2019. These loans will be available to all legitimate small business owners in every category of business and will be disbursed electronically to clients in line with Government’s policy for E-commerce transactions,” he stated.
He said the current proposal is to implement a technological platform to manage the TLF from loan application to disbursement to repayment. Explaining further, Mr. Sutherland said: “A mobile wallet and point of sale systems will also be provided to allow all transactions performed by beneficiaries and others to be tracked. This facility will provide useful statistical performance data that can be fed back to TLF Special Unit.
“An added benefit of the digital wallet technology is that it makes it possible to use the proceeds of this loan without ever performing an untraceable cash transaction. The platform will provide a multifunctional workflow environment, which will enable management of the various activities involved in the administration of the TLF.”
The proposed system, he said, would minimize paper usage and address major concerns regarding data security, integrity and confidentiality risks.
Stressing that the use of paper also had the added disadvantage of incurring high labour and storage costs, he noted that ultimately, staff at the various TLF offices would not be required to sift through large volumes of paper, keying the information would be unnecessary and enrolment to the card/mobile wallet could be automated.
Stating that loan applicants would be asked as part of the application process to provide a list of their top vendors, the Commerce Minister said the system would also allow for the enrolment of suppliers in the digital payment ecosystem who are not directly clients of the TLF.
“This will allow for the organic expansion of the electronic payment infrastructure, which, in turn, will improve the experience of TLF participants.
“Government is of the belief that we can continue to grow our economy in a more meaningful way by the use of an ICT platform that will allow us to do business real-time and reduce our cost significantly…To this end, and cognizant of the need to explore and expand our way of thinking beyond traditional ways of doing business, Government is committed to transforming Barbados into a digital economy and society. The internet and especially social media, has become an international standard for domestic and international trade,” he stressed.