Above: Sagicor Life CEO Richard Byles and Tyrone Wilson (right)
CARIBBEAN GOVERNMENTS often mention the need for the region to go digital.
ICT — information and communications technology, for countries that have few natural resources, is a way to diversify their economies, they frequently say.
And in an increasingly flat world, it’s digital innovation that will be one of the major avenues in which the Caribbean can make its mark on the global economy in the 21st century.
What’s necessary are those who will step forward and take the leap. That’s why Caribbean Journal is proud to name Jamaica native Tyrone Wilson as our Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012.
Wilson is the kind of innovator the Caribbean needs — one who is heeding the call to go digital.
The 26-year-old Wilson, who initially founded what is now eMedia Interactive, a collection of electronic-format magazines in Jamaica, has moved into high gear with his latest project, one that could change the way Jamaica and the wider region watches television.
The new launch for 2012 is iVu tv, a Caribbean online television network. It streams local and Caribbean content on demand, from shows like The wkdnr, a lifestyle programme, to Your Money, a business feature.
The idea first started around 2006, when Wilson was attending the University of the West Indies.
“At the time, it was IPTV, internet protocol television, and I was looking at I can get into this TV market, because in Jamaica it’s really hard to start a television network — there was a real barrier to entry,” he said.
When he started eMedia, at the time, eZines, he temporarily shelved the video idea, he said, finding it easier at the time to find funding for the magazine.
As he progressed with the magazines, however, he was approached by Pan Caribbean about expanding.
“Right away, iVu was the idea that I pitched and they were sold on it,” he said.
The key for iVu, Wilson said, its unique advertising platform — one that allows advertisers to put local, Jamaican ads on the channel. That’s in contrast to streaming sites like YouTube, which puts contextual, typically non-local ads on its video.
Another feature is interactivity; on certain ads, users can select the kind of ad they’d like to watch – for example, an NCB credit card ad or an NCB mortgage ad.
“We built our own advertising platform that enables us to serve local ads,” he said. “We’re the only company that has that kind of interactive Caribbean advertising locally.”
Thus far, the reception has been strong, he said. The next step is offering paid content on the site, on which everything to date has been free.
“People will be able to rent or purchase [content], and stream it at any time,” he said. “That will allow people to rent content similar to the services provided by iTunes and Netflix.”
Wilson said Jamaica’s digital market shows significant promise.
Indeed, according to a 2008 report by the International Telecommunication Union, internet was at 55 percent penetration in Jamaica, a number that is steadily growing. And with 100 percent mobile phone penetration in the country, it bodes well for the internet content market.
“It’s really an upward trend,” he said. “We’re bullish on internet usage right now in the Caribbean.”