Online Gaming in the Caribbean

After receiving sovereign status from the U.S., several American Indian nations took advantage of the gaming industry as a means of increasing revenue. Similarly, many developing countries, those in the Caribbean in particular, have capitalized on technological advances to boost their economies via online gaming. Online gaming in the Caribbean has blossomed in recent years and may act as a promising source of employment.

Internet access is an incredible technological benefit to developing nations. Not only does the internet allow inhabitants of developing nations to engage with the world and access information previously unavailable to them, but it also offers unique economic opportunities. Internet gaming has been one of the fastest-growing brands of online commerce.

Casinos have played a part in the Caribbean’s tourist industry for decades, and online gaming is a profitable addition to gaming industries already there. Studies show that income plays a substantial role in the amount of money that a nation contributes to gambling. Most individuals living in the Caribbean earn small incomes that are insufficient for fuelling and sustaining a large gaming industry. The internet allows these nations to access individuals from wealthier countries beyond foreign tourists visiting casinos in resorts.

The Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, passed by the U.S. government in 2006, limits the income generated by Caribbean gaming websites by denying them access to U.S. patrons. In the past, the Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda took the U.S. to court at the World Trade Organization (and won) for similar interferences with their gaming industry.

Critics of the industry understandably question whether or not the GDP increase resulting from gaming correlates with the betterment of citizens’ lives. Malta, a fellow tourist-popular island located in the Mediterranean, is the poster-child for how online gaming can nourish an economy. Twelve percent of Malta’s GDP comes from online gaming, and this industry supplies jobs to 8,000 employees, which is not insignificant on a small island nation such as Malta or those in the Caribbean.

Not only is the amount of jobs created by internet gaming important to developing Caribbean economies, but also the type of jobs. Online gaming in the Caribbean is beneficial because the technology involved requires more advanced education and special training, not typical of jobs in the developing world. Caribbean governments encourage gaming because it generates specialized jobs that provide employees with skills that increase the probability of future employment in higher-level jobs.

Further efforts must be made to foster growth in the Caribbean. While online gaming in the Caribbean may not be enough to elevate whole nations out of poverty, it is one example of the creative ways in which developing nations are utilizing technology to revolutionize and diversify the landscape of their job market and economy.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

A first of its kind, Catalysts for Change, an innovative and interactive online game, was run by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Institute for the Future last year in the beginning of April. The game prompted participants worldwide to discuss and come up with ways to battle the plentiful issues of poverty. The game itself was designed around four catalysts: new evidence, new capacities, new rules and new stories, all of which contributed to the card-based gaming platform.

Players could share ideas through Positive/Critical imagination cards – these had the potential to be built on by others through Momentum, Antagonism, Investigation and Adaptation cards. Leaderboards were also created, displaying points players had earned through using and gaining said cards. These could furthermore be categorized as Scenario Fail, Common Knowledge or Super Interesting based on the players’ personal perception of presented ideas. Achievements spanning across seven levels, going from Inspired to Legend, were available for unlocking before being recorded in player profiles.  Each card played was then cataloged by category, available for public viewing on a special dashboard.

A game blog recorded all progress and presented new missions and challenges in real time. Two weeks before the actual game start, several preparations were made including social media advertising and buzz-building, recruitment, email exchange between coordinators across the world and various sponsor partnerships which led to further awareness among people. Most follow-up cards played were either Investigation or Momentum; of the top-tier, Critical versus Positive imagination were played, the latter being more than twice as frequent. Around 53% of all cards had follow-up cards attached, spanning overall very optimistic and fruitful discussions. As expected from discussions concerning poverty, themes such as education, work and community were amongst the most common. A few top innovative ideas that were brought up include:

–  Alternative economic systems or a universal currency
–  Empathy, i.e. teaching children from an early age to perceive worldly problems
–  Entrepreneurial education and new business funding as a common endorsement for all
–  Socially engineered ways around corruption
–  Sharing to eliminate waste

Although the aim of the game was not to implement any policy for actual poverty reduction, it managed to fulfill its purpose: to motivate and bring together people in their desire to make a change. Several of the players, engaged among one another, even discussed ways they could contribute beyond playing the game, such as starting a non-profit together centered chiefly around their ideas. The attention on social media (Facebook and Twitter) that Catalysts for Change received helped further spread the cause. Thoughts shared by players are still accessible on the website today, providing ‘food for thought’ for anyone hungry for making a difference. Although the game spanned for only 48 hours, it attracted 1,616 players from 79 different countries who used a total of 18,207 cards.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: The Rockefeller Foundation: Catalysts for Change, Institute for the Future
Photo: Vimeo