ENDS could have rough beginning

As Jamaica prepares for the pilot phase of a digital delivery system to be rolled out in the imminent lockdowns, several food and pharmaceutical stakeholders have expressed reservation about its success. Others just don’t have a clue.

The initiative will be piloted in Portmore, St Catherine, shortly.

Three consecutive weekends of islandwide lockdowns will commence this Saturday.

The Government has partnered with the private sector to develop the E-commerce National Delivery Solution (ENDS), which will enable business continuity during the COVID-19 curfew hours, which will allow vendors to leverage delivery options for their clients.

Any compliant business, taxi, or courier service provider, once approved to operate during curfew hours, will be able to utilise the ENDS platform, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Sunday.

In Congreve Plaza, Steve ‘Terry’ Edwards already had jerked chicken on the fire at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. Even as he supported the lockdown as a useful measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Edwards said that logging on to the electronic platform would be a hurdle.

DOUBTFUL

He was doubtful of the success for ENDS for the patrons of jerk who he said liked their food hot off the grill. On-the-spot interaction is crucial for sales, he said.

“You see jerk chicken, the customer want it put pon the board and chop up, and as it a serve, him a taste it,” he told The Gleaner.

“And him tell you him want more ketchup or hot pepper sauce, and if you take up piece and him think it too small, you change and gi him another piece.”

Edwards is also concerned that delivery prices could make ENDS unviable. A quarter of chicken retails for $600 at Edwards’ spot.

“If the place a go lock down, people fi just stay a dem yard because what a gwaan a fi and you good. Cause we want get rid of this ting (COVID) so that things can come back to normal

Directly across from Edwards was Eric Lawrence, who had not yet lit the fire to his jerk pan. He was no clearer on the workability of ENDS.

“Them call and say they can get somebody fi do delivery, them will call and order the chicken, and somebody come and do the delivery, or something another. Mi nuh remember the rest of it,” he admitted.

He, too, was concerned that the increased cost of the chicken could prove a deterrent for some clients, especially because the price of a loaf of bread had risen to $400.

NOT INFORMED

Over by Jungle Fiah, a popular eatery, the manager on duty admitted that she was not informed enough to make a statement

A stop at a nearby pharmacy resulted in a similar response.

In Independence City, a vendor of soup and roast fish had just heard about the prime minister’s announcement from one of his customers. He had many questions about the platform. A nearby pharmacy manager also said he knew little about the measures.

However, Christopher Reckord, of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, told The Gleaner that it all started about three or four weeks ago when Holness reached out to them for a lockdown business plan.

“He wanted to know how we could we could go into curfew and still keep the economy going,” said Reckord.

Private-sector interests and a consortium of technology entrepreneurs knocked heads and drafted a plan.

The chief idea that emerged from stakeholder meetings was simple, said Reckord: allowing companies to deliver food and pharmaceuticals during curfew.

Key to that proposal was levelling the playing field so that Big Business and small players would coexist in the same pool.

“So the team of entrepreneurs said it has to be inclusive, can’t be for the big man alone. How can a jerk chicken man be included?” said Reckord.

Any vendor can log on the Ministry of National Security’s website and apply. Vendors would need a valid food handler’s permit and couriers would require PPV licences.

Delivery crews would be zoned in keeping with route licences.

Record said that no cash would change hands as payments would be made electronically.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com