Itaballi to get ICT Hub in two weeks
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Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, greets a resident during his visit to the Itaballi community on Wednesday
Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, greets a resident during his visit to the Itaballi community on Wednesday

AFTER making requests for an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Hub, and other initiatives to help the youths in their community, the residents of the river front community of Itaballi, in the Mazaruni River, were elated to hear about plans that are already in place to have a facility erected in the community.

The residents were also promised two weeding machines and a supply of footballs to aid in sports in the community. Minister of Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, on Wednesday happily related to the gathering of residents at the Itaballi Community Centre that officials from the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) had already visited and assessed the area to have the hub created.

The hub is expected to be installed in as little as two weeks, while the minister also committed to returning with a number of electronic tablets to hand over to the children in the community. “This government is making sure that the hinterland communities are connected. And we have a special project where we are going to create more of these ICT hubs. There is a big and bright future for us but you have to take these opportunities and use the opportunities,” Hughes said.

She was at the time speaking to the gathering of residents who came out to listen to what was said and air their concerns to a delegation of government officials, which, aside from Hughes, included Director General at the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon and Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally. Also present was Mayor of Bartica, Gifford Marshall.

The visit to the community was a wider part of the government’s “Meet the Public” event which was held on Tuesday at the Bartica Cenotaph Square. Realizing that not all residents would’ve been able to attend the Bartica event, the government did a wider outreach, visiting a number of outlying communities in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni region.

One of the issues raised by residents was the need for more to be done for the youths in the community. One particular resident noted a number of school dropouts in the area and called for the need for a vocational education institute to be established in the community.

Minister of Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes, speaks with residents of Itaballi during a community outreach on Wednesday. Looking on at the head table is Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Incorporated, Dr. Richard Van West-Charles; Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally and Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon.

Hughes noted that while a vocational institute can be the goal in the long term, with the coming on stream of the ICT hub youths in the community will be able to do online courses. She noted that her Ministry, just a few weeks ago, was in discussion with a notable local company that is offering internationally recognized online courses in heavy duty machine operation and repairs.

“In the area of education and connectivity, I have seen how we’ve used technology to bridge the gap, and how it can be applicable in a place like Itaballi. We were already looking to some of the training modules and programmes and those we can bring to Itaballi,” Hughes noted. Residents noted that they very much welcome the initiative, fearing for the youths who they say are beginning to turn to a number of negative activities.

“We’re happy that they come and look into the needs of the community,” commented Alicia London, a mother of six. “We have issues with the young people, with the shops encouraging the young people, selling them alcohol and have them going at the nightspot drinking and sporting. You have a lot of people here selling drugs, illegal drugs to the young people. I’ve never seen it, but people would talk and you have people using it because we would see them smoking all over the place.”

Aside from the need for the ICT hub, the residents called for other infrastructure, including stable electricity, and to have the roads done. However, with the area being a mining community, with many heavy-duty trucks destroying the roads; this too would have to be addressed. One young lady called for the need for more scholarships to be offered to the children in the community.

Herself a scholarship student, the young lady wanted to see the same opportunity afforded to her fellow residents. On that note, Harmon noted that all scholarships offered to citizens of the country are open to residents of the Itaballi community, and measures will be put in place to ensure those youths desirous of applying are afforded the opportunity to do so. “Those issues that you’ve noted about scholarships we will address them. I would like you to follow that up and get that information to us and we will make the necessary information so that people can get that information,” Harmon told the young woman.

“We have over 100 scholarships for Guyana School of Agriculture, so if there are people here with that yearning for tertiary education, get that information to us and we will ensure that those opportunities are given to our young people.” The promised weeding machines are expected to go for use at the Itaballi Primary School; teachers also had other complaints, and a list was immediately supplied to Mayor Marshall, who was charged with addressing the issue. Marshall noted, however, that many of the issues raised are concerns that are supposed to be addressed by the regional administration of the Cuyuni Mazaruni. He urged residents to not shy away from putting the pressure on the regional administration to perform their functions.

Despite free transportation being provided to take secondary school children in the community across the river, it was noted that there were some issues with the boat.

Minister of Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes, is welcomed by learners in the Itaballi community on Wednesday

Community Development Council Chairperson, Collen Singh, noted that as it relates to the boat, it was an issue with errant captains, and though they have been written to, they have been uncooperative. “Yes, we are grateful for the school boat, we are thankful under the President initiative and received the boat. We are very grateful to this administration.

But we have some problems with the captain and how they operate. Sometimes they overload the school boat for their own personal reasons, we recommended that they use the wharf, which is why we built it. I wrote a letter to say we would like the boat to go there but they’re not paying heed. They must respect that and not take things for granted,” Singh noted.

Towards the end of the visit, Minister Hughes shared that she was very happy with the engagement , saying “It gave us an opportunity to see Itaballi and have an opportunity to interact with the residents and get first hand what are the challenges that they face.

It gave us a chance to analyse these challenges and look for solutions. Like most hinterland communities, in some respect they are locked off from some of the bigger city and towns in Guyana and they have very specific needs in terms of access to education, infrastructure in terms of roads,” she noted.

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