The captivating natural beauty of travelling to the Hinterland before 2017 was limited only by an absence of reliable connection to the coastland through Information Communication Technology (ICT). This led to widespread consideration that travelling and tourism in Guyana’s hinterland was a journey into ‘no-mans-land’ as they say in Guyanese parlance.
Not so anymore! Following a pilot project in 2017 at Sand Creek, Rupununi, Region Nine, the hinterland and remote communities across Guyana are being connected to the internet through the trailblazing work, literally, of The National Data Management Authority (NDMA), which is an Agency of the Ministry of Public Telecommunications.
The Kurupukari crossing is one of the first wonders to experience on the journey to the Town of Lethem overland. The rapids are absolutely beautiful and by the time you get to the Western side of the crossing, if you are interested, you could update your family and friends on social media of the experience using Government Free Wi-Fi internet.
This is a common practice as scores of travelers take a break at the shops on that side of the crossing, while using their devices to engage in internet communication. Iwokrama River Lodge is a ‘stone’s throw’ in Guyanese lingo, and guess what, the NDMA has also connected this Lodge and Research Centre to the internet.
So if this is your tourism or research destination along the trail, you can connect with friends and family and conduct research on the internet for free. The benefits of this revolutionary service was clarified in the next village, Fairview, which is also equipped with the innovative Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) Technology.
Nyota Peters is a health worker at Fairview Health Post and she said that the internet has helped with the efficiency of the delivery of health services within the community because she is able to communicate easily using social media platforms such as WhatsApp. Peters said that sometimes the job requires health workers and nurses to network to find solutions to problems. In addition, she said that she is able to connect with the headquarters in Georgetown.
“Its benefitting me a lot, because I am in close contact with all my health centers using the service and I get to follow the news. It’s very beneficial to me and the community,” Peters informed. She had not stopped talking before two villagers, noticeably millennials, rode up on a motorcycle that they leaned against a tree stump while reaching for their phones to browse the internet.
Not far away, about 20km to be exact, is the Surama Community Centre where the Indigenous community proudly displays its art and craft for sale. This community also benefits from Government Free Wi-Fi and more importantly if any of the creative minds who produce the artefacts want to advertise their work, they simple hop online.
The internet in communities along the Lethem route is serving multiple purposes apart from basic communication and networking. It is connecting families with children who are studying in the coastland of Georgetown; It is helping health workers come up with speedy solutions to complex problems in the region; it serves as an important resources for researches in the region and like at Annai Secondary and Bina Hill, it assists students to complete their homework and School-Based Assessments.
Surama, like Aranaputa, home of Guyana’s brand of peanut butter and other value added products from nuts, uses Government free internet for marketing. These important functions of being able to connect to the internet via VSAT technology are the essence of what ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ means.
Whether its Iwokrama; Kurupukari, Fairview, Surama, Wowetta, Annai, Rupertee, Bina Hill, Kwatamang, Aranaputa, Massara, Toka or Crashwater, travelling to the town of Lethem overland has been revolutionised with access to information and communication.
The other significance of this is that the services are free and accessible to anyone travelling through or to these communities whether they are residents, tourists and/or students, for instance, they have access to the internet owed to the NDMA’s outstanding work.
This has been an ongoing national programme; connecting Guyana’s hinterland and remote communities to the internet is a main facet of Government’s thrust to ‘bridging the digital divide’ and ensuring that available Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services is accessible to all Guyanese.