Senator Weston: Technology threatens local businesses

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Traders in Antigua & Barbuda are being warned that the development in technology is likely to have serious implications on their operations if care is not given.
The advice from Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Senator Lennox Weston comes as discussions widen on the introduction of the Uber-taxi type technology to the local market.
“All of us need to stay sharp, we need to stay focus. Government needs to understand we have to be footloose in that some sectors will die. The technology is so revolutionary in some cases that governments would lack the ability to protect local and domestic industries.”
Uber technologies provide a smartphone application that connects drivers with people who need a ride. The company’s application enables users to arrange scheduled transportation and/or logistics services with third party providers.
Taxi drivers in Antigua & Barbuda have raised objection to the technology, indicating that they would not support its operation in the twin island. They contend that they can manage the market adequately.
Local law student J’moul Francis called for the liberalisation of the sector and an end to what he sees as protectionist measures.
Industrial Relations Officer at the Antigua Trades & Labour Union (AT&LU) Ralph Potter, who was also a part of the discourse, called for adequate laws to protect domestic players who are already operating within the market.
He suggested there has to be clearly defined rules to ensure traditional operators are not placed at a disadvantage.
“I know that there are systems in place where you have to go to the Transport Board for some sort of licenses, so I think that these things can be managed through proper regulation,” Potter said.
The industrial relations officer also called for a national discussion on the matter.
While Uber is yet to be introduced in Antigua & Barbuda, a similar technology – Pick Me Up-The Antiguan alternative, now exists.
With this model, the communication between potential passengers and the company (and drivers) is conducted via telephone.
The app is controlled by the business to provide services to customers directly.

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