Issue 8 : A look at digital in the Caribbean

Stats and stats (... at least I'm honest)

Good morning and welcome to another issue of the newsletter. As I write this, it’s been announced that the EU has approved by the new Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, the FT has a summary here. To be honest, by linking that article in my newsletter, I’m unclear if I would be breaking the law once it becomes legislation in my territory. I guess we’ll find out in a couple of years or so.

Next week I want to get into some of the practical things you can do to start your own Digital Transformation process. But for now, on to this week’s Issue.


Up until now I’ve been focused on the historical aspect of Digital Transformation and how we got here from the early beginnings in digital technology, but this issue is a look at the current state of digital from a Caribbean context with a short overview from a global perspective.(1)

Digital in the World

When you look at the state of digital usage in the world in 2019, a few interesting statistics stick out when observing in relation to the population of the world, which in January 2019, was 7.676 billion people however, 8.842 billion mobile phone subscriptions exist, think about that for a minute. More than the world’s population has a mobile subscription — 115% to be precise. 

Social Media penetration is running at just under half the planet, with 3.484 billion people on social media, 45% of the world’s population. Around 3.2 billion use mobile for social media, that’s 42%, which is in line with the amount of Internet traffic attributed to mobiles at around the same percentage.

If we take a look at growth, we see the population of the world steadily growing by just over 1% since 2014, but Internet users have grown by 9.1% in the last year. Social media use, despite the scandals, is growing at 9% too, with mobile accounting for 10% of that growth. Clearly mobile is where most of the world’s growth is, even if the amount of unique mobile users is only growing at 2% since 2018 (that’s more than 100 million new users per year!).

Globally, daily time spent on the Internet is 6h42m in January 2019 on average, last year that was 6h49m so a slight decrease was observed. However mobile made up 3h14m of that time, an increase of 4.3% from 2018. Mobile is taking over Internet usage. I’m guessing that by 2020 mobile Internet use will make up over half of the total Internet usage in the world. It’s currently at 48%. That’s corroborated by the statistics that show a clear decline in Internet usage on computers and tablets from 4h32m in 2014 to 3h28m in 2019, nearly a quarter of a drop.

Digital Infrastructure and usage in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is a widespread and diverse region, so I have concentrated on the 16 islands and territories of the Eastern Caribbean and averaged out the statistics, highlighting exceptions when and where interesting.

Starting with some of the basic elements, Internet penetration across the Caribbean is at 51% as a percentage of total population. Mobile subscriptions are running at 74% of the population but some places show extraordinarily high or low rates of mobile connections. In detail, most places have a number of mobile subscriptions that is higher than the population, but two French territories skew the figures with very low rates; Saint Barthélemy at 35% and Saint Martin at 31%. Removing these gives us an average of 151% across the region.

Literacy rates are reasonable across the region, with an average of 96% literacy of the total population, which is critical for digital services, where reading and comprehension are primordial. Although, if we look at the wider Caribbean literacy falls to an average of 84%, which is low, but an opportunity for audio and video content perhaps?

The average percentage of mobile Internet connections in terms of population is 65%, which is translates to 36% of all Internet traffic. The rest is shared between fixed broadband connections and tablet devices using mobile (tethering) or wifi.

Internet growth is virtually zero, with only a couple of islands showing any growth, Trinidad at 6% for example, and Grenada comes in at the top of the list at 10%, not counting the incredible figure of 368% for Saint Barthélemy! Not sure if this is a late coming to the party or a symptom of another phenomenon. I’m intrigued and will investigate.

The most startling difference in the region is the split between post-paid and pre-paid mobile connections. The French West Indies (excluding Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy) is heavily oriented towards post-paid, whereas the English West Indies is mostly pre-paid. Martinique and Guadeloupe have 64% and 56% respectively, of all mobile connections post-paid, with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (91% pre-paid) and Dominica (92% pre-paid) having the highest ratio pre to post-paid. Bizarrely, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy both show 100% pre-paid, however I suspect this is a result of how Orange, Digicel and SFR structure their accounts in these islands, skewing Guadeloupe’s figures a little. Those islands, including Marie-Galante have historically been administered as part of Guadeloupe.

Observations and opportunities

So, in conclusion, mobile is where it’s happening! All of your Digital Transformation strategies should take this in to account. Mobile is a different beast, where attention is not intentional like a computer. Often you browse something on mobile because you are in a queue or have a couple of minutes at the doctor’s surgery.

Video is King. In a recent report by wearesocial called “We are Gen Z”, a sample of Generation Z were observed and quizzed on their Internet usage, amongst other things. One striking highlight showed that they tended to use video content not just for passive observation, but for active participation and learning.

“I wanted to buy a bike, but I couldn’t find the one I wanted and that I could afford, so I built it myself watching YouTube.”

The report stated “YouTube and Instagram are key learning tools, with the former acting as a source of knowledge and entertainment combined. This clearly is an opportunity for business in the Caribbean to reach out and connect with users across the region.

According to the main source for this issue, 54% of organisations report that social media is being used outside of the traditional departments of marketing and that this is an opportunity for Marketing to guide and influence the expansion of Digital Transformation in their businesses. Those without Marketing will find this new world more and more difficult to compete in if they don’t have a developed Marketing group in their organisation, particularly when other enterprises have aligned KPIs throughout their businesses to measure and react to specific business objectives like revenue, satisfaction and customer retention being implemented transversally.

Another statistic that may surprise you. The average user today has 8 different social media accounts and messaging services. You must bear this in mind when you are developing your digital marketing strategy to ensure you have consistency across those platforms by linking data and its usage. This is extremely difficult to doubt it will offer an advantage over your competition.

Next week, as promised I’ll highlight some of the practical things you can do to start your own Digital Transformation.


Reading List

 Marrying tourism and digital agriculture to benefit female farmers in Saint Lucia - CARICOM

These are the kinds of stories I hope to hear about more often. Something that is tangible and on a Caribbean scale. I’ll let you read the article, but suffice to say that this is real Digital Transformation on a practical level and something that hopefully after the initial trial period can be extended all over Saint Lucia providing a model for other territories to follow. Digital Transformation is inherently social, so feedback and knowledge sharing throughout the region will certainly benefit all.

Uber Freight is expanding into Europe - TechCrunch

This is a good example of digitalising supply and demand to drive efficiency. It’s using a similar model to the classic Uber rider-Driver dynamic, using trucks (and drivers) to pool their availability to hook up with logistics shippers. It’s certainly one to watch to see if the model can be applied in a Caribbean context where we’re all the more dependent upon imports and getting those from port to shops.

New mobile broadband pricing data reveals stalling progress on affordability - web foundation.org

There has been talk of a digital divide since pretty much the time the Internet got popular. Looking at the above analysis of digital in the Caribbean, where Internet penetration is at 51% when in Europe and America it is XX% and XX% respectively, there is real truth the saying. This report looks at the associated costs of Internet access and we can see that the poorest regions are in fact the most expensive. Looking at the FWI compared to the English speaking Caribbean, let’s take Barbados as an example, in Martinique a mobile subscription from Orange of 100GB per month including 20GB/year roaming in the US and Canada will cost you 69€ ($156 BBD) per month, in Barbados with Flow 200$ BBD per month will get you only 20GB of data per month and roaming only in the Caribbean, no US/Canada. Its not much better in Jamaica, with 69€ ($9800 JMD) netting you a little over 24GB per month.

The Future is Digital Newsletter is intended for a single recipient, but I encourage you to forward it to people you feel may be interested in the subject matter, it really helps.

Thank you for your support, have a great weekend.


1 All statistics were taken from Hootsuite and wearesocial’s digital reports (Datareportal)