Caribbean digitally unprepared for COVID-19, says IDB executive

Therese Turner-Jones of the Inter-American Development Bank.

The head of the Caribbean Country Department of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is of the view that the Caribbean is not ready to operate in a virtual state as needed in this COVID-19 crisis.

General Manager Therese Turner-Jones gave the region a rating of five out of 10 with regards to readiness during a recent webinar, titled ‘Coronavirus and the Caribbean: Economic Implications and Options’.

“We are not nearly as ready as we should be. We have mobile devices, millions in the region. However, we do not have as much digital use, regarding services, government and private. For example, the banking systems, Caribbean people still do not trust online transactions,” she said.

Turner-Jones pointed out that the effects of COVID-19 on the region will probably create a different future, where financial institutions will move in the direction of leaning heavily on digital platforms.

For his part, James Scriven, CEO, IDB Invest, announced that the IDB was working with large telecoms companies to build more physical infrastructure through the raising of additional towers in the region, to aid in not just boosting Internet coverage but quality as well, which would boost the coming digital age.

David Rosenblatt—Regional Economic Advisor, Caribbean Country Department of the IDB—highlighted that the region was accustomed to hurricanes which destroyed infrastructure, but in the case of COVID-19, that was not the case. However, Rosenblatt contended the region must save the people and that while buildings stood if people became ill, there would be no workforce. He offered a solution for the downtime—educating staff for the virtual environment.