Feb 11, 2011 Editorial
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive!” We doubt that even Sir Walter Scott could have conceived the tangle our government lackeys not only wove, but actually got themselves into, when they unfurled their One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) programme. But we in Guyana know the nature of the beast we are dealing with. There is not a programme that this government conceives of, much less implements, without first figuring out how much one or another of its cronies could bilk from the national treasury. Deception is therefore not second nature to this administration and its underlings, but forms the very essence of their beings. Think of a government programme, any programme, and you will quickly apprehend the gist of this truth. The Hope Canal? Against the advice of every engineer in sight (and some out of sight) the government has been warned that the billions the government will sink into the project will literally be sunk. But the government, like the captain of the Titanic, is plunging doggedly ahead. Why? We are stating here and now that as we dig into the spending, as the government continues to dig the canal, we will discover that some favoured cohort is being enriched. Remember the Amaila Falls hydro project? Every road and bridge built? Every canal dug? You get the point. But back to the OLPF – which properly is OLPPF, One Laptop Per Poor Family, since the President pointed out that the 90,000 laptops will only suffice for half the families in Guyana, it would be best if the poor ones are empowered. (Does this mean that our poverty rate is therefore 50%?) In theory, the goals of the US$30 million programme seemed eminently worthwhile. By flooding our country with the tools of ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) – computers, internet connectivity, software, training etc. we might be able to leapfrog into the 21st century. From donkey carts to space ships, so to speak. But from the moment the programme was announced by the President at the launching of GT&T’s fibre optic cable last July, bells went off. GT&T had assured all and sundry that they would have been able to handle the connectivity for the 90,000 laptops with their new cable, so the President was forced to explain why he had committed another US$30 million for the government’s cable from Brazil. Redundancy, he announced grandly, is good. He alluded to the Bahamas – as if the two situations were analogous – where although there are 20,000 rooms and 45% occupancy rates, a decision has been taken to build yet another hotel. We shall see who will distribute the services of the government’s “redundant” fibre optic cable. Another foot dropped a few months later when the son of a government insider announced his company had teamed up with Huawei of China to provide the WiMax network to Guyana. The President then announced that the government “at a cost of US$35M” would contract Huawei towards, “deploying the WiMax systems in all the towns in Guyana.” The OLPF programme could be connected also through WiMax. Was the governmental contract the sweetener for Huawei’s involvement with the small, but connected, private company? So our investigations that revealed the government is up to some hanky-panky in the purchase of the Lenovo computers is not surprising to us. We expected it. It is part of the modus operandi of the government. And the stonewalling, evasiveness and outright lying by some government operatives is also of no surprise. Such behaviour is mandatory for the course their bosses have chosen. Guyanese aren’t idiots. Why lie about purchasing laptops? – Whether 5 or 20. Laptops were on display at the launch of the programme last month. Laptops were distributed as part of the OLPF programme to Abrams Zuil Secondary School on the Essequibo Coast, the Volunteer Youth Corps of Durban Backlands, St. Francis Community Developers of Berbice and the Hinterland Scholarship Students of the Amerindian Hostel. How come the government can’t reveal their unit costs?
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