With Eyes on Tech Services, Jamaica Begins to Move Beyond Call Centers

Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) is the lead trade promotion agency for BPO and IT services investment.

By Kirk Laughlin

One of the bigger bellweather moments in the migration of services’ work from India to the Nearshore came over a year ago when Delta Airlines publicly let it be known that they were investing heavily in call center functions in Jamaica and “pulling out” of South Asia.

The organization benefiting most from this was E-Services Group, which was acquired by global contact center giant ACS for $85 million. Over 4,000 E-Services employees joined ACS, and Delta has remained a key customer throughout the ownership transition.

This move seems to be part of a string of developments that are putting Jamaica – one of the most convenient Nearshore locations for North American companies – higher on the radar for outsourced services. Long seen as a modest sized call center hub, Jamaica is chipping away at reforming its image into one of a fuller-scale outsourcing destination that has the talent and capacity to play at a higher level that would include finance, accounting and technology services.

“We want to move into the next stratosphere,” says Don Gittens, senior consulting officer at trade promotion agency, Jamaica Trade and Invest, who notes that the country is focused on equipping students with a kind of technology literacy that is seeing increasing demand from US corporations.

One of the prime examples of this commitment is the Jamaica government’s interest in building a tech park specifically for ICT services, most likely to be located in the Portmore area, not far from the capital of Kingston. Portmore has a population of over 250,000 and a new tech center would help the island nation distribute higher-value jobs between the Kingston area and the thriving Montego Bay area, where professional outsourced services functions have been strongest.

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Jamaica businessman Mark Kerr-Jarrett is backing an ambitious five-year-plan for a business and technology park in Montego Bay that will potentially employ as many as 8,000 people. VistaPrint, which already operates a customer care center in Jamaica, committed in January to purchase a portion of land that is part of the planned park.

Currently, ACS runs an active finance and accounting center of excellence in Jamaica supported by over 1,500 workers. Other major providers on the island include: West Corp, Alliance One/Teleperformance and NARS.