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Marion’s new IT mission

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Marion’s new IT mission

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SHE EXCELLED IN economics and diplomacy, now Dr Marion Williams is out to leave her mark in the information technology (IT) field. And she hopes that Barbados will earn some foreign exchange in the process.

Williams, who was Central Bank Governor between 1999 and 2009, and permanent representative to the United Nations Office and other international organisations in Geneva from 2010 to last year, is heading a new venture called Techpal Solutions Inc.

Using a pool of local and, eventually, regional and international computer specialists, Techpal’s website will allow “the less computer savvy to access help from highly skilled computer specialists and so relieve their IT frustrations”.

The venture was introduced to a small audience, that included Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, at Williams’ residence at Mahogany Park, St James last week.

The economist, who once had to ensure the island’s foreign reserves were in good shape, said the project had the potential to earn foreign exchange since the service would be accessible to users outside of the island.

“It could be in reality in Geneva, or in Hungary or in India. The thing I think that this demonstrates is that we have a lot of skills in Barbados, which we can use to provide help to other people . . . so there are lots of opportunities for people who understand computers in Barbados to earn some foreign exchange,” she said.

Williams explained that the idea for the company developed while she was in Geneva and often contacted her son Paul for assistance in using the computer.

“When I was in Geneva, I would call him and [ask], ‘Paul how do you do this on the computer? How do you that? I need your help’. And I said to myself, ‘I don’t think that I can be so dumb, I think that there are lots of people like me. I’m no different from anybody else. I am sure that people my age out there are unfamiliar with a lot of computer niceties and would like to get some guidance’,” she recalled.

“It is intended to provide a platform for people who are skilled in computer technology who can assist others who are not. That means that I don’t have to know very much about computers, I am just organising and facilitating.”

She added: “So those who don’t know [about computers] are able to get in touch with those who do. So we have a way of identifying the skill sets of the techpals, so that when a client logs in [on the website] and asks for a particular skill or describes a particular problem, we have this bank of techpals who have varying skills and who will then be identified to assist.”

Techpal management explained: “This is a work-from-home arrangement. Techpals do not have to leave their homes. They deliver their assistance online using a range of current technologies including chat, Skype, and remote control, and similar technologies.”

“We have indicative pricing schemes which techpals are expected to use as a guideline when offering their services, but from which some variation is possible.

“This platform offers an opportunity for potential techpals to get work, to increase their earnings and to build IT careers, and to do so without leaving home while relieving the IT-related anxieties of clients.

“This is a win-win situation for both techpals and clients. Also, techpals may check job requests posted online and offer their services directly should the request match their know-how.”

While Techpal now only has a pool of local computer experts to help customers, Williams said the plan was to hire others from outside to assist people who are expected to be mainly “mature users”.