With the right projects and reforms, ICT can transform Guyana’s economy
There can be no doubt that the development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector can transform life in Guyana in so many ways.
As a country we must recognise the importance of developing our ICT sector and placing it at the centre of the nation’s development plan. Fundamental to this is providing internet access and connectivity across all regions of our country, designing a national broadband policy and implementing a supporting strategy.
Regrettably, the development of ICT as a contributing, productive sector has been slow. The high cost of supporting infrastructure, absence of enabling legislation and limited skillsets have been significant contributors to this state of affairs.
In 2016 however, a number of plans are expected to leverage the capabilities of ICTs in transforming the economy, thus making it more competitive and productive. To this end, Government is expected to establish a Public Internet Access Points (PIAPS) at Government Ministries and Agencies to increase citizens’ access to information and e-Services.
Increased access to information and services shall improve knowledge and efficiency in traditional economic sectors, and there will also be support for education and learning for youths and adults.
Government will also support a larger project that will focus on providing Internet access and computer devices to Hinterland and indigenous communities. This is deemed necessary due to the recognition of the vulnerability of indigenous people and the prevalence of poverty in their communities compounded by the lack of access to basic services.
The expanded project aims to create a platform for hinterland distance learning so as to build their capacities; expand and improve public service delivery through ICT to these communities; bridge the developmental gap between coastline and hinterland communities; and create opportunities for hinterland communities to explore and access markets for their products.
In our contemporary world, Information and Communication Technology Business Incubators (ICTBI) have emerged as meaningful tools for nurturing ICT-based enterprises and the creation of value added employment. Government will invest $60M to set up ICT Business Incubators in all regions.
Government plans to expend an initial $25 million dollars towards the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT). This Centre will provide training for public sector ICT professionals. This is to ensure the availability of an appropriate and highly skilled ICT workforce, equipped with healthy attitudes, to meet the increasingly complex demands of the public and private sectors.
Moreover, in supporting widespread access to information and eGovernment Services, Government will spend a further $100 Million dollars to repair and upgrade the Georgetown–Linden Fibre Optic Cable.
In keeping with this thrust to expand broadband connectivity and the integration of Ministries, Government will also invest $140 million dollars to consolidate, monitor, maintain and extend the existing eGovernment Fibre Optic and LTE Network around Georgetown and along the coast from Moleson Creek to Charity.
Last but in no way least with regards to ICTs, Government in 2016 will accelerate its drive to fulfill its expressed commitment to supply educators and institutions of learning with computers, laptops and tablets along with access to the Internet.
It believes that making ICTs available to educators and students will serve to enhance learning, drive innovation, make youths more work ready and transform the country into a highly efficient knowledge-based society.
According to Public Telecommunications Minister, Mrs. Cathy Hughes, a number of plans are also in store for the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU). She said that in 2015 the NFMU carried a range of its mandated functions such as Radio Inspection, Monitoring, Licensing and Number Administration.
During 2015, she said that the agency reviewed the proposed Memorandum of Agreement between the Governments of Guyana and India on the Centre of Excellence for Information Technology and made recommendations for its enhancement.
The NFMU also spearheaded the procurement of emergency telecommunications equipment for the Civil Defence Commission, through a grant from the International Telecommunications Union – the ITU.
The unit also made a direct impact in fostering and promoting gender balance by in the industry through their “Girls in ICT Day Activities” which seeks to encourage more female participation in the ICT sector and which is a staple in the NFMU’s calendar of activities.
In 2016, the Minister said that the National Frequency Management Unit will Continue Preparation for the liberalization of the Telecommunications Sector; and Upgrade spectrum monitoring and management capabilities.
The agency will support further development and deployment of Broadband networks/services; Continue participation in the Harmonized Caribbean Spectrum Planning and Management Project;continue promoting and supporting the use of ICTs for Disaster preparedness/mitigation; promote the use of ICTs to achieve UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in Guyana.
The Unit will intensify the process to Transition from Analogue to Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting. The entity will also hold Public Consultations to discuss: the Roadmap for the transition and Choice of digital standard will be carried out. 2016 will see also, the commencement of the implementation of the Roadmap.
Further, the NFMU will Plan, Organize and execute activities to raise the awareness regarding opportunities and encourage more females to consider careers in the ICT field. It will continue working with organizations such as the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre to promote the use of ICTs for differently-abled persons. The unit will also Re-Tender for and commence the building of NFMU’s Head Office.
The National Data Management Authority is another agency within the Public Telecommunications ministry.
Under the supervision of its newly appointed board, the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) will develop work programmes to satisfy its mandate. The NDMA, which is the government agency responsible for data processing and information systems in the Public Sector, will focus on improving the Public Sector’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) preparedness.
Towards this end, the Authority will be revamped to better support the eGovernment Unit and the ministry in its ICT capacity development. NDMA’s contribution will be directed towards developing knowledge workers through training, who are capable of optimising the use of office productivity suites and collaborative tools, through the soon-to-be established Center of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT).
NDMA will conduct a training needs assessment to identify skills requirements in the Public Sector, and design suitable training programmes and deliver appropriate training courses to satisfy these needs.
In addition, the NDMA will continue to provide data processing services and will monitor and review plans of the various ministries with the aim to determine their data processing requirements, and based on these findings provide guidance, advice and direction where necessary.