— President says at commissioning of Centre for Excellence in IT at Turkeyen campus
[GUYANA CHRONICLE] PRESIDENT David Granger said progress made by Guyana in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector should be allowed to continue as the country seeks to equip citizens with requisite skills for a technologically-advancing world.
The President made the appeal at the opening of the Centre for Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT), located at the University of Guyana (UG), Turkeyen Campus. This centre, which is a joint initiative between the Government of India and Guyana, aims to provide training for public sector professionals.
“The ICT revolution has started,” President Granger said, adding: “Developments in the ICT sector – both planned and in progress – will allow us to close the digital divide between our coastland and the hinterland and between Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean.”
So far, he noted that broadband access has been rolled out in hinterland and remote rural communities with the aim of promoting greater integration of the entire country.
Added to that, there is greater emphasis on promoting the connectivity of all citizens, which is why the government has begun providing free Internet access to all public facilities, including schools and hospitals and 171 community- based ICT hubs.
Part of this revolution, he also explained, involves fashioning Guyana into a “digital state”. This plan aims to connect all citizens while fostering economic transformation through value addition to the production and service sectors, spawning knowledge-based industries and promoting diversification.
He also reminded that this state will allow for easier access to public services, a process which has already begun and the need for citizens to visit multiple government agencies to complete a single transaction would be minimised.
This is especially critical, the President noted, for persons living outside of the highly-populated areas where services are readily available.
“Many hinterland and some rural communities are isolated and lack adequate infrastructure. The residents of these communities have to travel long distances to access public services,” he said.
Despite his government’s aim to establish capital towns in each region in an attempt to provide easier access to these public services, more work is still to be done. It is for these reasons he touted the necessity of continuing to craft the “digital state”.
According to him, ICT is both a functional and practical response to the challenge of the digital deficit in Guyana, since it has the ability to promote greater inclusion and innovation, and foster the creation of digital industries consistent with Guyana’s sustainable development agenda, the ‘Green State Development Strategy’ (GSDS).
“By any measure, this initiative must be allowed to continue over the next five years,” he underscored, lauding the work done by Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, in bridging the digital divide.
The President asserted too that for the success of the ICT revolution and the digital state, Guyana needs to possess a reservoir of highly-trained persons who will drive the development of the sector, and who will lay the foundation for the establishment of knowledge-based industries.
These persons must be produced from a re-oriented education system which places greater emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), he said. As such, he noted that the ICT and education sectors must work in tandem.
The CEIT, which began training in April of this year, is one place where this knowledge and skills in ICT will be cultivated. In fact, High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingam, said in the first two years, the centre is expected to train about 500 professionals from the public sector in various ICT courses.
The centre falls under the aegis of the National Data Management Authority (NDMA), and General Manager of the authority, Floyd Levi, shared that the Government of India provided all the necessary hardware to outfit two laboratories and one classroom, reference books, and instructors for the initial two years of operations. In addition to this, five staff from the NDMA will receive training in India to return to Guyana as master trainers.
“This CEIT is a step in the right direction,” President Granger said, adding that it is a necessary part of building human resource capacity by providing specialised ICT training which will, in turn, foster new careers and provide greater opportunities in the ICT sector.
President David Granger walks through one section of the Centre for Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT) as General Manager of the NDMA, Floyd Levi, tells him about the equipment in place. Also in photo are several dignitaries including High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingam, and Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes (Adrian Narine photo)
“The digital state will falter unless it benefits from an adequate number of persons trained in ICT,” he said, and on that note, pointed out that India has the experience and expertise to help Guyana develop its ICT manpower.
“The CEIT is another example of India’s continuing support for Guyana’s development,” President Granger said, while adding that this will also form part of the legacy of the outgoing high commissioner.