Looking Towards An Information-Based, Knowledge-Driven Society

The Bahamas Financial Services Board has spearheaded the establishment of a private-sector E-Business Working Group, with the intent of bringing together all the diverse groups and companies currently involved in the industry and to develop a cohesive approach to the long-term development of e-business in The Bahamas.

“We see ourselves as a catalyst stimulating a collective effort by the private sector. Such a collective effort is essential if The Bahamas is to have an opportunity to participate in the benefits to be found in transitioning our society to participate fully in a digital economy” said BFSB’s CEO & Executive Director Wendy C. Warren. She further stated that BFSB is well positioned as an independent private sector organisation to cause companies that may typically compete to explore issues and formulate solutions necessary for industry and national development, in strong dialogue with government.

Over thirty companies and associations comprise the E-Business Working Group, representing interests in financial services, infrastructure development and support, evolving e-commerce ventures and consultancy service. Barry J. Malcolm, Executive Vice President of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and a BFSB Director, serves as Chairman, with Ms. Warren serving as Deputy Chairman.

The Working Group presently is fine-tuning an assessment of e-business in The Bahamas and plans to present an early report to Government on key issues, including short to mid-term recommendations of action steps considered essential for timely industry development. Sectoral areas targeted for review in this process include Banking & Finance, Connectivity, Credit Card Clearance, Education, Fulfillment, Legislation and Regulation, and Promotion.

The Minister of Finance has described an information-based, knowledge-driven society as one in which “every Bahamian household, every Bahamian business, and every Bahamian person, will have the means, the desire and the opportunity to participate fully”. Already, Government has initiated a number of steps to ensure the development of e-business.

The National Steering Committee appointed in 2000 was successful in developing a blue-print for the digital economy. The Bahamas Financial Services Board, as well as many of the associations and companies represented on the new E-Business Working Group, participated on that Steering Committee. A BFSB Position Paper on Development of E-Commerce was presented to the Ministry of Finance at that time.

The Ministry of Finance’s internal E-Commerce Working Group has proceeded to develop an e-business policy in line with the telecommunications policy, also under development. In a public address earlier this year, the Minister of Finance reported that the Group also is refining a business plan for the government’s component of the transition to e-commerce and the eventual establishment of a government e-business office.

During 2000, preliminary technical working drafts on three pieces of e-commerce legislation were circulated for industry and sector comment. BFSB, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Bahamas Association of Life & Health Insurers (BALHI) submitted a joint Paper outlining industry recommendations on the drafts.

The Government has moved ahead with various initiatives to promote e-learning, including its computerization of schools project and an interactive instructional system integrating the use of computers into the teaching process.

Chairman Barry Malcolm has said that there must be a collaborative effort on the part of the public and private sectors to ensure that The Bahamas takes its place in the global community as a networked economy and e-commerce domicile. “The E-Business Working Group views the creation of an ideal environment for such collaboration as a key component of its mandate”, he said.