BY NEARSHORE AMERICAS STAFF
While Jamaica’s tourism industry has taken a US$350 million hit in losses because of recent unrest, the country is reporting that its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector remains robust in spite of the violent conflicts.
“Despite the recent unrest in sections of Kingston, companies in the information and communications technology sector are indicating that they have not sustained major disruptions and are already experiencing the return of normal operation levels in their businesses,” said a representative from Jamaica Promotions (JAMPRO), the government agency with responsibility for the sector.
Last week, part’s of the country’s capital – West Kingston descended into unrest after Prime Minister Bruce Golding gave instruction for extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, an “area don” in Tivoli Gardens, a community in West Kingston. Coke is wanted by the United States on allegations of drug trafficking and gun running.
But residents from Tivoli Gardens barricaded all roads in and out of the community. The Prime Minister then order the security forces to remove the barricades but they were attacked by gunmen who burned several police stations, killed a member of the Jamaica Defence Force and two policemen in a related incident hours before the security force operations began.
A limited state of emergency was enforced by the Government in Kingston and parts of St. Andrew. This gave the security forces extraordinary powers and limited the movement of residents. Order was restored to the community days later but 73 civilians were killed while the security forces traded fire with the gunmen.
While ICT businesses in Montego Bay, St. James on the western side of the island, were not affected, businesses located in Kingston and neighbouring parish, St. Catherine lost productivity because staff living in these areas was affected by the unrest and one business had to close its doors during the unrest.
“Attendance is done but it has been business as usual,” said David Follwood, chief information officer for Fullgram Solutions, a customer contact centre located at Oxford Road in New Kingston, an upscale business district in St. Andrew miles away from West Kingston. “The office is open and we continue to service our clients,” he added.
Phyllis Green, director of Carisbrooke Limited, a Kingston-based full service centre said the company’s Half Way Tree Road office was not directly affected but staff attendance had declined to 70 per cent because many of the employees lived in Portmore, St. Catherine.
She said staff had “self-imposed curfews due to reduced transportation routes and security precautions.”
Meanwhile, ACCENT in New Kingston was proactive as it implemented steps to ensure business continued. These measures include short term hotel accommodation in the New Kingston areas for an emergency team of staff as well as the contracting of a bus operator to handle transportation requirements.
“For the staff who braved the elements to come to work each day, we are ensuring that they leave within a reasonable timeframe so that they can be home by 6 p.m.,” said Paul Rodriquez, information technology and facilities manager of ACCENT.
Meanwhile, broadband telecommunications firm Flow closed business for one day but has since reopened. Andrew Fazio, Flow’s Commercial director said most staff members have come into work.
In Montego Bay ICT businesses were unaffected by the unrest in West Kingston. Jackie Sutherland, chief executive office of Global Gateway Solutions said there was no negative impact on the business operational activities.
Roger Williams, general manager of VistaPrint, producers of printed products also gave similar responses as he said the disturbance was 200 kilometres away from his business.
“The current unrest in some sections of Kingston has had absolutely no impact on our operations here in Montego Bay,” he said. “The vast majority of our employees and suppliers are from the wider Montego Bay area and therefore, there have been no disruptions to any schedules.”