By Leonard Gildarie
Government says that it has earmarked US$30M ($6B) over the next three years to equip an estimated 90,000 poor families with laptops as Guyana attempts to harness the potential of extra bandwidth.
The announcement, to loud applause, was made by President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday at the launching of the new fibre optic cable of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) at the International Convention Centre, Liliendaal.
According to the Head of State, government had been working on a one-laptop-per-family project.
With the new Suriname/Guyana Submarine Cable System (SG-SCS), this project will now become a reality and government will be engaging the GT&T in talks to ensure this is so, Jagdeo said yesterday. Recognizing that several private sector businesses are now grabbing the opportunity to offer packages with the expected demand rise in computer hardware and other internet-ready equipment, the head of state pointed out that this project is on a much larger scale with the intention that accessibility is paramount.
The President did not rule out support of the government in making the laptops available to poor families.
The introduction of the significantly increased bandwidth will make a huge difference in the lives of Guyanese and Surinamese and with the introduction of another fiber optic cable from Brazil, this country’s capabilities will likely be comparable to the region’s most advanced systems.
Acknowledging that GT&T will not in a short while recover its investments, Jagdeo noted that there must be a collaborative effort to ensure that the potential of the cable is fully realized.
There is a latent demand for better internet services and this requires GT&T and stakeholders to be creative and to work harder to ensure that the investment is returned.
According to the President, there have been questions whether large investments are needed in the country- investments like the ICC Cricket World Cup, the Guyana National Stadium and another major hotel.
He alluded to the Bahamas where although there are 20,000 rooms and 45% occupancy rates, a decision has been taken to build yet another hotel.
The rewards are great for Guyana with bigger bandwidth with the possibilities of third generation technology, broadband access to every home, cheaper bandwidth and better quality calls.
The President noted that the government intends to work with GT&T to ensure that the Brazil fibre optic cable is optimized and has asked the company about its plans. He warned that Guyana has to think big although the cost factor may be another issue.
GT&T was challenged by Jagdeo to ensure it widens its content to ensure that it is fully optimized and looks to the education sector for improvements…not only locally but regionally.
He congratulated GT&T for taking the bold step.
Meanwhile, Michael Prior, Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN), the parent company of GT&T, said his entity is more than up to the challenge and willing to take a “leap of faith” in ensuring that the 90,000 families laptop programme becomes a reality.
While acknowledging the challenges for this project, and noting that GT&T is “excited” and “nervous”, the executive pointed out that if the people of Guyana grow, so will GT&T.
Police rank was disrespectful to judicial functionary – Top Cop
Ranks of the Guyana Police Force are confused with regards to the use of cellular phones while on duty on the roads.
This follows clear directives by Commissioner of Police Henry Greene who reiterated that it will be disrespectful for ranks to speak to someone on a cellular phone while executing their duties on the road.
The issue stems from a controversial action taken by the force to have one of its traffic ranks taken before a senior member of the judiciary after she refused to speak to him on the cell phone.
The female rank had apprehended a motorist for a traffic violation and he (the motorist) subsequently called the judicial official who requested to speak with the rank on the phone.
The rank reportedly declined to speak to the official on the cellular phone, but advised that he call the relevant station and speak to a senior officer to iron out the matter.
This angered the official who contacted senior police operatives to have the rank sent to him.
In response to queries by this newspaper over the action of the force’s administration, Police Commissioner Henry Greene disclosed that the rank was disrespectful to the senior judicial official.
“A member of the force apparently was involved in being disrespectful to a member of the judiciary, from what I understand,” Greene said.
He admitted that after the senior judicial member asked to see the rank, she was escorted to his office, a move which is worrying to ranks, since ranks are now wondering who is really responsible for disciplining them.
“When he (judicial officer) called her, it was not for the purpose of begging any favours,” Greene said, adding that he was unaware of the incident until it surfaced in the media.
He insisted that any rank should be free to speak with a member of the public on the cell phone.
“Here’s a person asking to speak to you, the person is saying, ‘I am this person’, first thing is you take the phone and if you don’t recognize the voice you say ‘sir, I’m sorry, I don’t recognize your voice you need to call the station.’ I have experience where ranks refuse to speak to me (on the cell phone). Some of them are very discourteous and I’ve had to take action,” Greene said, adding the force order on these matters is very clear.
But ranks have indicated that this announcement could lead to some demoralization within the organization.
According to the commissioner, the force has many standing orders which have been there for years but the problem is that ranks nowadays do not comply with them.
“You are serving the public and here’s a member of the public wanting to speak to you, why shouldn’t you speak to them. You don’t know who the person is. You don’t know what they want to tell you. Suppose they have some vital information that could save your life? You speak to them,” Greene stated.
Presently, the Guyana Police Force is mandating that reports be taken over the telephone, something that was frowned upon by ranks in the past.
“Police don’t like to take reports on the telephone. We’re making it mandatory now that reports must be taken over the telephone. It must be taken,” Greene said.
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