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Country Snapshot: Jamaica

Marc Jarrett
The first thing that struck me about Jamaica when my wife and I decided to celebrate the millennium there was the number of people that owned a cell phone — and this was nearly a decade ago.

Despite living in what most of us would deem to be abject poverty, a mobile device was and is a "must have" for most people living there. The same is mirrored in the rest of the developing world; with cell phone penetration often rivaling or even outstripping those of more developed countries.

Jamaica has a modern, fully liberalized telecoms system, which has seen phenomenal expansion in recent years. Former monopoly full-service provider, Cable and Wireless Jamaica Ltd (CWJ) now faces competition from Digicel and Oceanic Digital.

As for Jamaica's online presence, according to InternetWorldStats.com, a surprising 39.4 percent — or just over a million — of its 2.7m inhabitants are already surfing the fixed line Internet; with no doubt many others surfing the mobile Internet using their cells.

E-commerce is of growing significance to Jamaica. For some local companies (particularly utilities) there is the option to pay bills on-line or via credit card using a telephone. Many Jamaicans who possess a credit card denominated in hard currency (U.S. dollars) frequently make online purchases from U.S. and other overseas companies.

So, when selling to Jamaicans, be sure to include both credit card and phone billing solutions as part of your processing portfolio.

As for language, no translation is needed since English remains the official language of Jamaica.

Tourism remains Jamaica's leading foreign exchange earner and is set to benefit from more than 18,000 additional hotel rooms, which will be developed in multi-billion dollar projects to be undertaken over the next five years. This will increase the job opportunities and buying power of Jamaicans — and make a great venue for an industry conference; I'll see you there.

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