Why Bermuda doesn’t innovate

Bermuda wants to create new industries, another economic pillar upon which to stand, but we can’t largely by our own doing.  Today’s article regarding an online taxi booking service illustrates why.  We’re too far behind the curve on most things.  Government gets far too involved because of our bloated civil service.  We focus too much on protecting the status quo and a sense of entitlement to the way things are.  All of these factors act as significant roadblocks to disruptive change.  Disruptive change is what drives innovation and this is why in many ways Bermuda isn’t innovative.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said that a review was now under way in tandem with the Attorney General’s Chambers, examining the legal implications of taxi apps — including Uber.

Number 1: We’re too far behind the curve.  Why are we so far behind on this?  Uber and related taxi apps have been around for years now and a review is only now under way?

 According to the ministry spokesman, “significant progress” is under way to move toward “a central dispatching system, in consultation with the local dispatching companies, that will utilise many of the current technological applications that are available”.

Number 2: Anytime the government claims “significant progress” is a bad sign.  This has been talked about for years and still no resolution.  If anything, government is too involved and is doing more to prevent progress than make it.

“It puts the dispatch company out of business, or hurts their business, and you have to get the taxi drivers to buy into it as well as the public.

 

“Some feel that it’s not legal. They don’t have a dispatching licence and theoretically this is dispatching. I think that the Government needs to step in and make a statement one way or another, whether this is legal or illegal.”

 

“Go around and look at taxi drivers; there are no boats in and we have very few people coming in off the planes,” he said. “You’ve got guys down at the airport waiting three, four hours hoping to get a job. Sometimes these flights come in and they’ve only got 35 people on.”

Number 3: Protectionism to the point of self injury.  This is one of Bermuda’s worst problems.  We’re too entitled to and protective of the status quo.  Taxi drivers are rampant against any sort of change to the industry despite well known inconsistent sometimes brilliant, sometimes terrible service.  In nearly the same breath you have a Taxi Association President proclaiming that taxi drivers are struggling for work, waiting 3 hours for a job and then raising concerns that dispatch could have competition.  Dispatch as it stands now does not work if it takes 3 hours of waiting at the airport to get a fare.  A properly functioning dispatch system would better assign available drivers to available jobs.  There are too many antidotes of drivers that show up late and passengers who gave up waiting.  A proper dispatch system would resolve this.

What should happen is that these entrepreneurs should be supported.  An America’s Cup style red carpet should be rolled out for them to streamline all of the impediments.  If anything, these guys should be supported to help supply the existing dispatch companies with software to tap into taxi tracking and dispatch.  Just because there’s an app doesn’t mean the end of dispatch.  An app requires knowledge about it, it requires downloading, it requires data.  Many people would be happy to just have a phone number they can call that they get a reliable response and estimate rather than “on is one the way” but who knows when.  Government’s should be happy that they’d get a means to keep tabs on drivers who refuse fares and properly regulate the industry.  Taxi drivers should be happy because they’d no longer have to sit around for hours waiting to pick up a fare.

This is why Bermuda struggles to innovate and lags behind most everyone else at ths point.  We have to take calculated risks and get ahead of the curve.  Government needs to be less hands on and more of a regulator and facilitator.  Finally, we need to shift our mindset away from protecting the status quo.  Bermudians like those who created this app should be applauded, supported and empowered to bring forth disruptive change and innovation.  If we don’t start doing it now, we’ll never innovate.

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