For Jamaica, a small economy in the Caribbean, the arrival of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has been seen as a big boost to the nation.
It now brings in an estimated $400 million in revenue and employs some 26,000 people, according to the country’s Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology.
With a compound annual growth rate of around 20%, Andrew Wheatley, Jamaican minister of science, energy and technology, recently estimated that revenue from the BPO sector could hit $750 million by 2020 — a vast sum for a country that had a GDP of $14 billion in 2016, according to the World Bank.
Some 60 firms are now operating in this space on the island, said the minister at the recent Outsource2Jamaica Symposium and Expo in Montego Bay, mentioning names such as Xerox,Sutherland Global Services, Teleperformance,Startek, Alorica, and Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS).
“Artificial intelligence and machine learning represent a real threat to some of our traditional jobs, even those in the BPO sector.”
– Andrew Wheatley, Jamaican minister of science, energy and technology
While the ambitious projections highlight the optimism of Wheatley and others promoting the industry in Jamaica, he is also concerned about the potential disruption that emerging technologies like automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence may have on the BPO industry in his country.
“Artificial intelligence and machine learning represent a real threat to some of our traditional jobs, even those in the BPO sector,” said Wheatley at the conference, as reported by Loop Jamaica.
For Jamaica to continue to reap all potential benefits from the sector, he suggests for companies to start preparing for the future now. This means embracing digital transformation and becoming early adopters of new technologies to ensure that the BPOs operating on the island will be the ones that learn to leverage these advances to expand their bottom lines rather than being usurped by leaner, more agile firms — that could be located in different locations.
“Technologies such as cloud computing, social media, software and automation,” he said, “are increasingly being used by BPOs to reduce costs and accelerate growth…We must guard against the impacts that these technologies can have on a most critical sector to our country’s growth.”
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