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SEEN UP NORTH: Bajans make online leap


Tony Best

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If emerging technologies are changing our lives every day, boosting communications while adding new dimensions to education, health and commerce, it’s not surprising that some young Bajans in New York would seek to add something to this high-tech global environment.
Samuel Springer, Troy Barrow and several others in sales, computer software development, customer relations, law and a variety of disciplines in and out of the United States have come together and are on the verge of launching IWonda, an online digital marketing platform which they insist will “provide unequivocal value to businesses, individual merchants and the entire online community” in Barbados and, hopefully, the rest of the Caribbean.
There are computers in about a third of Bajan homes and the country is ranked 29th in the world with 22.4 broadband subscribers per 100 people, slightly lower than Australia, New Zealand and Singapore but higher than Austria, Ireland, Italy and Greece.
“We are seeking to create a destination site where tourists, returning nationals and outside investors can get information on the types of businesses and services in our country,” said Springer.
On a recent weekday evening, the movers and shakers behind IWonda had a “beta” or soft launch at the Barbados Consulate in New York, several weeks ahead of a similar introduction in Barbados on March 29.
“This is a technology company that is drawing on the skills and knowledge of people in the United States, Barbados, India, Turkey, Russia and the Ukraine,” said Barrow.
“It’s directed at all businesses and even churches. It’s an idea that came out of conversations and the ideas of friends.”
The computer-generated images and information galleries shown on a flat-screen monitor uses online technology designed to provide firms, churches, individuals, tourists, arts and craft manufacturers, restaurants and a wide range of service providers with ready access to the World Wide Web.
And when the two-hour presentation was over, 90 per cent of those in the room said it would be a “useful” system for them as retail customers, while about two thirds said they considered product or service ratings before purchasing an item.
“It’s going to be a useful innovative business entity and tool for Barbadian businesses and the tourism industry to take advantage of,” said Adrian Sealy, Invest Barbados’ senior business development officer in New York.
“Our goal in New York and in Barbados later this month,” said Springer, co-founder and chairman of the company that’s registered in Barbados, “is to focus attention on the copious opportunities in the digital space for the Caribbean, based on the impressive and high online penetration percentages.”
The Bajans behind the online venture are hoping that it will become such a success that its membership-based community would share experiences by uploading videos, pictures and other images that support reports.
“The goal is to begin in Barbados and expand to the rest of the Caribbean and eventually to the North American marketplace,” Springer said.
The expansion into the Caribbean seems feasible. With a computer ratio of 33 per 100 people in Trinidad and Tobago, one of the world’s highest; Bermuda standing atop the broadband global list with 61.7 for every 100 people there, and Aruba and Antigua also among the leaders; the Cayman Islands and the Netherlands Antilles already major Internet hosts; and Antigua and Jamaica heavy users of the Internet, according to data compiled by The Economist publications, the region may become a key staging area for an array of businesses, social organizations and institutions.
With an online GPS system, Springer explained, it would guide consumers to firms and even point tourists to places of interest such as houses of worship.
“We see IWonda as an excellent Internet vehicle to help market Barbados as a tourist destination,” he added.
“We believe it can become a household name,” said Springer.

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