San Juan, PR (September 12, 2019) – Monday, September 16 marks two years since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico — claiming thousands of lives and destroying or damaging many of the U.S. territory’s homes and businesses. Since then, Puerto Rico business owners have been slowly rebuilding their businesses, and many are now opting to leverage the internet and its related technologies to help boost revenue.
“We must champion the idea in Puerto Rico that technology and digital competence can transform our economy and the lives of our citizens,” said Alexandra Fernández Navarro, Associate Member, Puerto Rico Public Service Regulatory Board.
“Having broadband means giving Puerto Rico’s business community access to a global marketplace so they can reach new customers while growing the local economy,” said Chris Pedersen, Vice President of Development and Planning, Connected Nation. “It also gives them access to better business applications, employee training opportunities, and other services that can set them up for success.”
Each year, Connected Nation (CN), through its local subsidiary Connect Puerto Rico, is contracted by the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics to research trends in technology among residential and business users — identifying challenges and opportunities.
“We shift our focus every other year — even years are residential; odd are business. This year, we’ve seen a significant jump in the number of Puerto Rico businesses selling products online,” said Chris McGovern, Director of Research Development, Connected Nation. “About half are now doing so compared to only about 28 percent in 2017. We also see that companies that do business online get about one-third of their revenue from online sales. That’s up from just 19 percent two years ago.”
Connected Nation also found that the use of broadband (high-speed internet) has seen a slight decrease among businesses — from 91 percent at the time of Hurricane Maria in 2017 to 87 percent today. But there’s a significant shift: Those that have it are increasing usage in just about every category. That includes, among other things, accepting online payments, which is up from 39 percent in 2017 to 62 percent in 2019; bidding on job contracts, up from 29 percent to 43 percent; and using social media for outreach, up from 49 percent to 63 percent of businesses that are connected to internet.
This shift in how Puerto Rican businesses are doing business could actually provide new opportunities for growth, including seeing improved technology.
“Business broadband demand in combination with the cost of rebuilding land-based networks will force telecom companies to adopt 5G technologies sooner rather than later,” explained Eduardo Diaz, Chairman of the Puerto Rico Broadband Task Force. “This shift in technology will result in more businesses adopting wireless technologies for their internet connectivity.”
However, an estimated 1,100 businesses in Puerto Rico that were connected before Hurricane Maria have not yet subscribed again to broadband.
“They’re left without access, and as Puerto Rico’s business community increases its online presence, we must look for ways to include all of those companies that were left reeling by this destructive storm,” McGovern said.
There are additional challenges and barriers that could stifle immediate growth. For instance, teleworking is on the rise, sitting at 27 percent in 2019 compared to 20 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, half of businesses said they find it “difficult” or “very difficult” to find employees with the necessary technical skills. That’s compared to just 34 percent two years ago.
“What this tells us is that we must focus on more than just helping increase the access to and adoption of broadband and related technologies,” said Pedersen. “We must also look at providing digital skills training and helping potential employees understand how to leverage technology.”
To learn more about the survey and research conducted, head to the Institute of Statistics website.
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About Connect Nation Puerto Rico: CN Puerto Rico is a local subsidiary of the national nonprofit Connected Nation. Our mission is to improve lives by providing innovative solutions that expand access to and increase the adoption and use of broadband (high-speed internet) and its related technologies for all people. Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.
Connected Nation works with consumers, local community leaders, states, technology providers, and foundations to develop and implement technology expansion programs with core competencies centered on a mission to improve digital inclusion for people and places previously underserved or overlooked. For more information, please visit: connectednation.org and follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter.
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