By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The government yesterday said its draft e-commerce policy is now being shared with industry stakeholders as a critical element in “accelerating” the country’s post COVID-19 recovery.
Kwasi Thompson, pictured, minister of state for Grand Bahama, told Tribune Business via e-mail that the policy was intended to encourage both private sector and government entities to conduct transactions online and ensure they have built-in digital capacity to recover from major disasters.
His message seemed to be a response to frustrations voiced in this newspaper yesterday by Brent Burrows, CBS Bahamas (Commonwealth Building Supplies) e-commerce manager, over the company’s inability to obtain an answer from the government as to whether it could launch an e-commerce platform it invested “tens of thousands of dollars” in developing amid the pandemic.
Mr Burrows had told this newspaper that COVID-19 had presented the company’s investment with an ideal time to shine, adding that the fully integrated, 35,000-product online shopping and payment platform could fulfill purchases and orders without staff and drivers having any contact with each other or customers.
Mr Thompson’s response, though, seemed to indicate that “no” will be the answer despite acknowledging the restraints that the nationwide lockdown had imposed on e-commerce providers.
“We are very mindful of the limitations of the Emergency Order - even on businesses that may already have e-commerce platforms,” the minister wrote. “However, at this time, protecting our health from the virus is the government’s first priority. We believe this policy on e-commerce and the digital economy will be necessary for the rebuilding and recovery of our economy.
“The government has prepared a draft national policy encouraging public and private entities to establish and maintain a digital presence that would allow them to be able to transact commercial activities via electronic commerce (e-commerce), as well as maintain broadband data and communication linkages to support the ability to allow employees to work remotely if and when possible.
“It is intended that the implementation of a national policy on e-commerce and digitisation will assist in mitigating losses, and accelerating the rate of recovery of the economy, post a natural disaster or national catastrophe, particularly post COVID-19.”
Mr Thompson said the draft policy deals with the digitisation of government agencies; critical economic business entities and services; and non-critical business entities and services.
He added: “The policy will seek to encourage the use of the Sand Dollar digital currency administered by the Central Bank of the Bahamas and other digital wallet systems as part of normal commercial transactions.
“Also, businesses will be encouraged or mandated to establish and maintain effective and efficient electronic communications systems to allow for efficient communication with their staff, employees, agents and customers.
“Businesses will also be encouraged to implement electronic commerce systems that will allow customers to purchase goods and services online using debit or credit cards, and digital wallets. Included in the proposed National Digitisation Policy, the government could also provide various incentives to businesses and enterprises to encourage the use of digital online systems.”