Over the last ten years, I have been involved in change management for digital transformation projects in both the private and public sector. I have also experienced PwC’s global digital transformation journey personally. It has been a mammoth task to up-skill 327,000 people globally, including more than 1,300 people across the Caribbean region (over 280 of those in the PwC East Caribbean firm). This ongoing journey has not just been about equipping teams with new digital tools, skills and capabilities, but about changing the way we work, creating space for people to learn, and encouraging innovation. I compare this to the experience of living in Barbados as the country also goes through a digital transformation. In both scenarios, I have observed how focusing on people has been critical for driving the digital agenda. This article shares some insights into how the people side of digital transformation ultimately improves the sustainability of the initiatives.

Preparing the Workforce for Digital Transformation

We have long moved past the question of “do we transform?” The key question is “how do we transform?” Citizens, digital nomads, and others inspired to relocate to Barbados in the post-pandemic era, do not always have the luxury of using personal connections to facilitate business, which is the cultural norm. Nevertheless, they are seeking and demanding increasingly personalised and seamless experiences in their interactions with entities in both the public and private sectors. Digitalisation provides entities with the ability to facilitate online payments, communicate processes and deliver data and services to citizens and customers, providing a much-improved experience.

In light of this shift, Government and business leaders are prioritising digital transformation. Barbados has taken several steps over the years towards increasing the use of technology within the public service and has spent more than USD 30 million on modernisation initiatives. These initiatives have been geared towards improving how services are delivered to internal and external customers, and increasing access to citizen services, education, healthcare and social safety nets. Leaders recognise that digital platforms, if employed strategically, can serve as a great equaliser. They can build trust by being responsive and consistent, allowing users to make rapid, cost-effective decisions in times of uncertainty and creating a platform for sustainable growth and recovery.

However, according to the findings of PwC’s Global Hopes and Fears Survey 2023, leaders are facing a common challenge in response to digital transformation: “...you have to reinvent your organisation, but without the support and energy of all your people, these efforts will fail.”

In line with this thinking, the Government has sought to ensure that leaders and implementers are capable of leveraging change management techniques to improve the success of transformation initiatives. This includes investing in a whole government change management approach, up-skilling public servants and implementing a broad digital upskilling programme for citizens.

Digitalisation of Education

Beyond the workforce, there has also been a major shift in how digital skills are being developed amongst school children. School closures and the shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic cast a glaring spotlight on the digital divide globally. Amongst the winners was Estonia, which has the top-ranked school system in Europe according to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Estonia already had a mature digital component prior to COVID-19 and was able to move seamlessly to a remote learning environment, with excellent outcomes for students tested during that period. Finland also had a successful transition to fully virtual education during the pandemic, and a successful return to face-to-face instruction afterwards. The transition in Barbados was not quite so smooth with challenges faced by students as well as teachers.

Barbados’ response was three-pronged:

1. First, the Ministry of Education worked with private donors, private sector corporations and the Ministry of Finance to roll out the “G-Suite for Education Tech” drive, which provided free tablets and internet access to a wide cross-section of students and teachers, to facilitate continued instruction while schools were closed.

2. Secondly, Primary and Secondary School teachers were trained in the new technology and best practices for online learning at the start of the pandemic. Some of them also participated in an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded teacher training and mentoring programme on digital skills and e-pedagogies led by Finland’s Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

3. Thirdly, support in the form of counselling and additional teaching was also offered to parents and students who were struggling with home schooling or who needed additional psychological and academic support.

A future of 100% remote learning is not the ultimate goal. However, with increasing digitalisation being an inescapable facet of modern life, it is imperative to continue building digital skills at the school level and focusing on improving equitable access to digital technologies to make the country’s digital transformation inclusive and sustainable in the long term.


Though Barbados’ digital transformation is being driven by technology, both Government and private sector leaders have recognised the need to focus on building digital skills and supporting culture change at all levels of society. This may mean dismantling decades of tradition, overcoming deep held beliefs, and transforming culture -- none of which is simple. But the vision for the future is inclusive and inspiring, and this, more so than any shiny new technology, will inspire citizens, visitors and investors to bet on Barbados becoming a smart digital nation which can compete globally for a long time to come.