US$37.6M for broadband roll out

THE Government is in the process of securing funding of US$37.6 million, to implement the first phase of its Smart Guyana programme-a national broadband initiative to expand the e-Government network.

Finance Minister, Winston Jordan told the National Assembly during his budget presentation on Monday that as part of the programme the administration will upgrade the existing LTE network, and construct data centres, provide capacity building, outfit smart classrooms and eLibraries, launch eHealth solutions for remote health care services, and increase closed circuit television capacities towards a Safe City solution.

“To this end, we have allocated $2.3 billion to commence work on this initiative, in 2018. In addition, a further US$17 million has been earmarked to ensure that vulnerable groups and far-flung hinterland communities, which might otherwise be excluded, are provided with the necessary infrastructure, hardware and software that will enable access to high quality ICT, training and e-services,” Jordan told the House as he unveiled the $267.1B budget.
According to him, implementation of this project is anticipated to commence in 2018 and, on completion, will see over 89,000 residents, in approximately 170 communities, having access to over 200 eGovernment ICT hubs.

“Mr Speaker, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is a continually advancing and evolving one. It has been transforming traditional sectors such as transport, security, health and education. There are newer and more intelligent smartphones being released almost every month, some of which can monitor your health to a high degree of accuracy; homes are being designed with smart technology that will learn and adapt to owners preferences and comfort while providing security measures; and classrooms that are fully digital to provide a more immersive learning experience,” the finance minister stated.

Notwithstanding, he said the government is fully committed to accelerating its assimilation of new technologies into the way “we do business and into our way of life. To this end, our focus is placed on completing the process of liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.” Jordan said the government is keen on having the benefits of a competitive ICT industry being passed on to the consumer in the form of improved services, added coverage, and reduced cost. Additionally, he said the administration will be working to further develop the requisite infrastructure to support such a transformation. “Our interventions, going forward, will be guided by our National ICT Strategy, which will be finalised in 2018.”

Jordan said in 2017, the foundation was laid for the full operationalisation of the Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT)-an ICT finishing school geared to bridge the gap between academia and industry. The building that will house the centre was fully refurbished and furnished and, in 2018, over 100 students are expected to graduate from the centre with advanced tutelage in network security, JAVA and Android, among others. Over $140 million has been allocated to support the CEIT in the new year.

Jordan said while capacity building remains a priority for Government, the need for innovation is critical to supporting transformative growth. He said in 2016, government started nurturing the talent of the local community by hosting events such as Hackathons and CodeSprints. These have been a success, with the eventual winners of the latter developing a practical Agricultural Commodities Trade Exchange that will be employed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

He said the recently-concluded Hackathon required participants to create a software or mobile application that caters for the management of Rates and Taxes and reporting for Municipalities and NDCs. While still in the early stages, he said government anticipates the application developed by the winners will be put to good use.

Source: Guyana Chronicle