May 02, 2015 Editorial
Whenever a government undertakes a major national project, such is the documentation that anyone wanting to research the project would have no problem finding about any aspect of the project. There are clear trails; one can readily identify the cost of the project, assess the duration of the project and the source of funding for the project.
In Guyana major projects are all foreign funded. The Information Communication Technology (ICT) project is one such. It is being funded by India and China with most of the money being provided by China.
The first inkling the nation had that there was to be such a programme, came when the Government launched its One Laptop Per Family project. The intention was to produce for distribution to the families with the most needy being the first to get, 90,000 laptops—netbooks in fact.
The stated price was higher that such a product would cost on the retail market but in the end, the nation accepted the project. People would have been provided with the means to access the internet and so access information necessary to the education process and for research, generally. This programme was spread out over three years. By this time the first computers would have become obsolescent.
The government then spoke about its ICT programme which would entail a cable from Brazil, and a fibre optic cable to be laid by Huawei, a Chinese company. We were all told that the Huawei cable would provide the backbone of the ICT programme which would promote E-governance, a much-needed project in Guyana.
For starters it is about time Guyana join with the rest of the world to have just about every aspect of government computerized. In other parts of the world, the police can access information about every vehicle it encounters on the road without the officers leaving their patrol cars.
All police stations are linked so that information on a suspect can be accessed by every station simultaneously. Because of this and the fact that hospitals can share information on a patient during an emergency caused people to embrace the ICT concept. But it is here that the confusion begins.
The cable from Brazil should have been commissioned two years ago. To date it remains in a disastrous state. At one stage it was deemed to have been scrapped. The government said that it had spent US$4.5 million. Initially, it had planned to lose that money but people following the issue were certain that the expenditure far exceeded the US$4.5 million.
Today, the government has decided to resuscitate the cable and in the process, providing conflicting information. In a fit of pique, Dr. Roger Luncheon said that from what was told to him by Alexei Ramotar, the cost of the entire Brazil project—cost of cable, labour cost and cable acquisition cost— was US$4.5 million.
However, in a whole page advertisement promised and delivered by Dr. Luncheon, there is the statement that the US$4.5 million was for laying the cable. Within 24 hours the question of the cost of the Brazil cable project had varied.
Distribution of the One Laptop Per Family programme seems to have ground to a halt. We do know that computers were given to people who were far from the poorest of the poor. Some were used as political gimmicks in the same way the solar panels that were distributed in Region One.
So we hear nothing about deadlines passed more than two years ago. In fact, ICT is spoken of as a futuristic thing until the media zeroes in. Then the government comes out with some convoluted answers.
We hear that a contractor who actually was one of those who lay the cable has been entrusted to repair the cable. For free. We know that something must be wrong because the contractor was not among the most proficient and benefits from remarkable handouts that include duty free concessions, something that Dr. Luncheon is seeking to cloud with usually convoluted language.
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