AS part of its overall mandate to transform Guyana into a nation driven by Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Government has fulfilled its promise of merging the e-Government Agency and the National Data Management Authority (NDMA).
This merger will lead to greater efficiency in the delivery of Government’s e-Government programme. The announcement that the two agencies would be merged came in 2015, shortly after this Administration took office. Minister of State, Mr Joseph Harmon, during a visit to the NDMA’s office at the University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus, in August of that year undertook to bring the two agencies together under a single administrative system. In December 2016, Cabinet granted approval for the e-Government Agency to be merged under the aegis of the NDMA.
Newly appointed Chairman of the NDMA, Floyd Levi, who held the post of Chief Executive Officer of the e-Government Agency, explained that the move will result in a more responsive and efficient entity that can address the public sector’s need for improved ICT services across Guyana. “The Ministry of Public Telecommunications was formed on January 1, 2016 and that essentially brought a number of government agencies that were involved in ICT and Telecommunications under one ministerial control. The NDMA and the e-Government Agency were two of the principal units involved in public services ICT development.
Recognising that the two units essentially had the same mandate, Government thought it best to bring all of those tasks under one entity, so that the Ministry of Public Telecommunications would be able to more efficiently deliver on its mandate to the public sector,” he said.
Levi said that though the merger was only made official in December last year, the two units have, since 2015, been working tirelessly to integrate their staff, their systems and policies in order to create one fully functioning unit. “The single unit now is the NDMA, but this doesn’t mean that the e-Government programme disappears altogether. Its roles are now brought under the NDMA. The Ministry of Public Telecommunications maintains its e-Government programme and so that agenda is still on the cards,” he said.
According to the ministry, the NDMA was established in 1983 under the National Data Management Authority Act. According to the Act, the NDMA is responsible for the development of computer systems in the public sector to satisfy its information needs; the development of training and manpower programmes in order to ensure that adequately trained personnel are available for the efficient operation of computer systems; the authorisation and acquisition of all hardware and software for the public sector; the establishment and maintenance of reliable communication linkages in the public sector, in order to achieve optimal utilisation and deployment of computer resources and the establishment of guidelines for the recruitment and work conditions for ICT professionals.
Now merged with the e-Government Agency, the NDMA will retain its responsibilities, but its scope of work will now be extended to include the functions of the agency, which focuses on providing support to ministries and government agencies to enable them to provide government services to citizens on an interconnected database.
“Using the legislative mandate of the NDMA, we can provide so much more and we will be able to do so much faster. By bringing the expertise and skills of the staff, who work under the e-Government Agency to that of the NDMA, this will enable us to do many of the things we have always planned that required some of the skillsets that are in the NDMA, particularly in data processing and entry. So the fusion will be beneficial not only to the two units, but as a result, we will see efficiency in service to the public sector,” Mr Levi said.
Malcolm Williams is one of the e-Government Agency employees whose role has been shifted since the merger. Once the Director for Policy Planning and Training within the Agency, Mr Williams is now the Director of e-Services within the NDMA and has played an integral role in overseeing the merging of the two entities to ensure that systems were seamlessly integrated for the smooth functioning of the restructured NDMA. “The e-Government Agency has some of the best ICT engineers in the country and merged with the staff of the NDMA, we anticipate that we will be able to fulfil the expectations outlined within the NDMA Act. The merge brings together the legislative authority of the Act and the expertise of the two agencies and that makes us a much more powerful organisation,” he said.
Williams said that much work was put into ensuring that many of the problems often associated with mergers were avoided, such as structural, socio-cultural and other issues. “We spent a lot of time prior to the merger and after, ensuring that we thought things through and that specific actions were taken to integrate staff… That effort we spent was one of the benefits we are reaping right now. The NDMA staff have all been integrated into the structure seamlessly,” he said.
NDMA’s former General Manager, Mr Godfrey Proctor, will now serve as a consultant for the organisation for the next year, even as he proceeds on retirement. “We recognise that he has a wealth of knowledge, so we have asked him to continue working with us to provide that knowledge and have asked him to document past NDMA procedures that would have been developed over those years,” Mr Levi explained. Proctor said that he believes that the merger is a good one, which opens up many opportunities for ICT development in the public sector. “I wish the NDMA continued success. Over the years it has done a lot and the e-Government Agency will bring a lot more to the table than we were doing before. And the rate at which I have seen the Agency work, augurs well for the future of IT in government,” he said.
Since its establishment, the NDMA has been involved in working to develop data-processing systems for various Government organisations such as the National Insurance Scheme and the University of Guyana. It was also responsible for all the data processing of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) and other local examinations overseen by the Ministry of Education. The unit has conducted training programmes for system analysts, design and analysis and computer programming. “In the days we were doing those things, other people were not doing them, so the government agencies and ministries were able to receive training. I think we have been useful to the government agencies who needed work done for them in that area,” Mr Proctor said.
The e-Government Agency has also had a packed mandate since its establishment in 2010. Within the last year, the agency completed several ICT-related projects, including the installation of an e-government network which spans Charity in the Pomeroon-Supenaam region (Region Two) to Skeldon in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region (Region Six), the provision of internet access and network connectivity for schools and technical and vocational institutions through its Improving Digital Equity, Access and Learning (IDEAL) Programme, the distribution of laptops to teachers across the country through the President’s One Laptop Per Teacher (OLPT) initiative and the establishment of 51 Community ICT Hubs, which enable outlying communities free high-speed internet access.
(Ministry of the Presidency)