THE Government of Guyana is currently in talks with several international and bilateral partners to improve the country’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure. Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, made this disclosure during a one-day High-Level Thematic Debate of the United Nations General Assembly on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity held on Thursday. The UN virtual debate was held under the theme, “Whole-of-Society Approaches to End the Digital Divide.” Across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of digital technology and its intricate link to the workforce, education, health care and e-commerce. This has compelled nations to transition from the conventional means of earning, learning and access to essential services to working remotely, learning online and preparing services virtually.
Due to the lack of adequate ICT infrastructure, many third world countries, including Guyana, have struggled with this transition. It is with this in mind that the government has taken the decision to seek out partners for improved ICT infrastructure. Prime Minister Phillips noted that at present, less that 30% of Guyana’s population are utilising the internet. He said this underscores the urgency for collaborative work to bridge the stark digital divide between the developed and developing world. “With less than 30% of our population using the internet, the Government of Guyana is working closely with international and bilateral partners to increase access. Currently, we have several strategies locally to improve ICT, which begun with the liberalisation of the ICT sector,” he stated.
Further, the Prime Minister explained that the government is working to ensure that internet access on the local level continues to improve through the expansion of the fiber optic network, subsidized internet access to poor households, provision of appropriate technology to schools and the establishment of an international institute of technology in Guyana. At present, the Ministry of Education has commissioned eight smart classrooms at secondary schools across Guyana with plans to install such a facility in 20 schools.
Brickdam Secondary, East Ruimveldt Secondary, New Amsterdam Secondary, and the Skeldon Line Path Secondary Schools, as well as President’s College and Queen’s College are among the first beneficiaries. The Prime Minister further noted that the government is committed to bridging the urban to rural ICT gap, noting that this is pivotal to ensuring that all sections of Guyana’s society can earn, learn and access essential services, even from remote locations.
“In positing solutions to end the digital divide, we must address the urban-rural gap in digital technology as well as the limited accessibility of the most vulnerable group in society. Expansion of affordable ICT services to rural areas including satellite technology and training in the use of digital technology must therefore be prioritised. The government is also working to improve service delivery to the public through digital government services,” said Prime Minister Phillips.
Meanwhile, he explained that the government supports the United Nations (UN) 75th declaration to “improve digital cooperation and work towards a common vision of an open, free and safe digital future for all” and intends to strengthen policies and legislation targeting cybercrime in an effort to combat the “wrong use” of digital technology.