The Hon. Perry G. Christie, M.P.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Perry G. Christie has introduced a Policy Statement on **”Electronic Commerce and the Bahamian Digital Agenda”**. Stating that the development of e-commerce will enable The Bahamas to move to the highest levels of economic and social development, the Prime Minister described the Policy Document as Government’s vision for The Bahamas to become a centre of excellence for e-commerce.

The immediate action plan includes:

(a) Establishment of an E-Business Development Office;

(b) Further development of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (in conformity with the Telecommunications Sector Policy and international agreements);

(c) Human Resource Development;

(d) Ensuring that the necessary legal and regulatory framework is in place.

Added to the above, the Government is committed to promoting appropriate mechanisms to facilitate business-to-business payment systems and the settlement of cross-border transactions, and ongoing enhancement of efforts already started to establish a wide system of e-government. Additionally, the digital economy will be used to leverage all aspects of Bahamian culture on the world wide web, to increase tourism’s market share, citizens’ access to local content, and provide opportunities for exposure of Bahamian products and services to the global market.

An E-Business Development Office is being established within the Ministry of Finance, and will include an Advisory Group, responsible for providing input to the Minister on information and communications technology (ICT) developments and related initiatives, both domestically and internationally. An Inter-Agency Planning Group within the Office will have a key function of determining the respective responsibilities of public sector agencies in meeting e-commerce goals and developing essential implementation plans. Specific branches of the E-Business Development Office will be concerned with (a) Legal, Regulatory and Policy Development; (b) Infrastructure and Telecommunications Technology; and (c) e-Government.

The Prime Minister has said that the recently released document is the first in a series of policy statements to be promulgated over time *”to provide an articulated vision on areas of public policy impacted by e-commerce developments of relevance to The Bahamas”*. Additionally, such policy statements will provide information on the ongoing work being carried out by the public and private sectors, *”to ensure that The Bahamas becomes, and remains, a centre of excellence for e-commerce.”*

**E-Business Advantages Offered By The Bahamas**

* A strategic location as a natural gateway to and from The Americas, serving historically and literally as a natural bridge or link between the “old” and “new” worlds as well as between North and South America;

* A conducive regulatory and legal framework that meets international best standards and practices;

* Reliable and frequent air links to major international destinations;

* A world class transshipment facility on Grand Bahama Island;

* English as the national language;

* A United Kingdom-based legal system;

* A strong tradition in providing highly-skilled professional and financial services;

* A young, trainable workforce;

* Available land for the development of concentrated centers of high technology; and

* An already extensive submarine network of fibre optic cabling.

Parliament currently is debating a package of enabling e-commerce bills, including:

**Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill**: Creates the environment for the legal certainty necessary to instill confidence in online commercial activity in The Bahamas.

**Computer Misuse Bill**: Creates a series of offences arising out of the unlawful interference with computers and computer systems.

**Data Protection (Privacy of Information) Bill**: Requires that information should be obtained by fair and lawful means and used in a manner consistent with that for which it is collected.

**Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Bill** Seeks to establish standards for the protection of consumers entering into commercial arrangements.

In its Policy Statement, the Government reiterates its commitment to collaborate with the private sector. In positioning The Bahamas as the premier e-commerce business centre of choice, it sees the private sector taking the lead role with Government seeking to facilitate private sector initiatives through the removal of restrictions that may impede e-commerce.