Stakeholders Meeting on the Proposed Coordinating Mechanism for the Establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Big Data in T&T

January 26th, 2023

Vashti Guyadeen Chief Executive Officer, Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Service Industries (TTCSI)

Remarks from
Vashti G. Guyadeen
Chief Executive Officer
Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries

I am indeed pleased to be here this morning to deliver remarks on behalf of members of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries even though the request came literally at the 11th hour. This demonstrates the TTCSI’s commitment to data collection and data analytics. To demonstrate the TTCSI’s drive for the use of information to guide decision making for trade in services, it is imperative for me to highlight two key projects that were launched in September 2022.

Roughly ten years ago the TTCSI proposed to the Ministry of Trade and Industry the development of a national services exporters registry and portal.   In justifying its case for PSIP funding, TTCSI noted that based on data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO), the energy sector contributed 77% of all export earnings, despite only employing 2.4% of the labour force and contributed 37% to real Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This over-reliance on the energy sector has resulted in boom-bust economic cycles in T&T that are strongly associated with trends in energy prices internationally. Furthermore, over this period, decreases in energy prices caused major falls in real GDP. TTCSI noted that the need to diversify exports was perhaps more urgent than ever before.

Fast forward to October 2018, TTCSI got the green light to commence the project and kickstarted the process of undertaking the National Services Exporters Survey. In 2021, construction of the online platform to disseminate disaggregated trade in services data and to facilitate interactions between prospective clients and local service providers commence – the silver lining amid a pandemic was that services providers and firms realised the value of completing surveys – simply because it meant that we were able to better represent the status of their businesses. Prior to 2020, we had a less than 20 percent participation rate for our surveys, a year later, it exceeded 75 percent. Our members realised what’s in it for them. Hence the reason why, most participants here this morning are members of the TTCSI.

Although Trinidad and Tobago has a wide range of services industries, an ‘International Services Hub’ branding strategy does not currently exist. The National Services Exporters Portal (NSEP): branded the ‘Local Services Hub’ was therefore created to position, brand, market and promote Trinidad and Tobago as an international services hub.

The development of the International Services Hub will involve the continuous development of the NSEP, inward/outward trade missions, and proactive media engagement. A network of local services firms has been established to help accelerate the globalization of local businesses through shared expertise and opportunities. This network will act as a local advisor on international markets; develop market entry strategies; organize trade workshops; and provide in-depth market reports. It will also facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge of international markets by encouraging dialogue between service providers, governments and technology suppliers on the e-commerce side.

The TTCSI’s International Services Hub has the potential to provide opportunities to lower the traditionally high cost of exporting as it will enable firms to engage in joint marketing efforts such as joint market research and bundling of services. As the hub evolves, we envision that services providers and firms will realize the following core benefits:

  • Increase profit potential of firms on the portal
  • Increase export earnings potential

This is why we welcome the initiative from the UN for this country to be a home for a Centre of Excellence on Big Data Analytics. As I have pointed out, you are not starting from scratch. I will illustrate an example of the impact of big data on trade in services. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), “predictive analytics, derived from information gathered from insights from past buying behaviour, feedback from sellers and buyers, payment and invoice risk profiling, and other techniques, allow businesses to predict future market behaviour. Moreover, the rapid analysis of large volumes of information leads to more accurate decisions. Ultimately, Big Data holds significant value in economic planning and international trade”. Imagine ladies and gentlemen, the impact this type of data analytics will have on local businesses — access to this type of analytics presents tremendous opportunities for them to customise their services not just for local consumers but presents opportunities to reach regional and international buyers through the use of technology and customising services to the needs of consumers.

We look forward to collaborating with the UN as well as the utilization of TTCSI’s National Services Exporters Portal which within a year will evolve into a Global Services Exporters Portal. Relevant and up to date data analytics is the game changer for trade in services.