Oct 12, 2015 News
The public sector is expected to benefit significantly when the Guyana Government embarks upon Information and Communication Technology (ICT). And while the ultimate beneficiaries will be the Guyanese citizenry, public servants will also benefit from training in ICT services.
This is according to Minister of State Joseph Harmon who emphasised that it is time that Guyana’s public sector stepped into the 21st century.
According to Harmon, the APNU+AFC coalition has been looking at ways to make the Public Service more professional and efficient. He said that as part of this goal, the administration is looking keenly towards the creation of an ‘e-government’ and the provision of ICT services.
He said, too, that ICT will increase the levels of service provided to the nation.
“Information and Communication Technology is pervasive in society and are useful tools to improving efficiency and effectiveness,” Harmon stressed.
He went on that the government is aiming towards adapting ICT solutions to address many of the barriers which stymie and constrain efficiency, and improve quality of the public service.
As part of the adaptation of ICT, digitisation will be a necessity.
According to Harmon, Government agencies are inundated by large volumes of data stored on paper. He noted that this type of storage has several drawbacks, including easy degradation, large space consumption, and difficulty in retrieving specific records.
“Digitisation of the public sector information presents new vistas and opens greater opportunities for the public service,” Harmon said.
In explaining the rationale behind ICT services, Harmon said that using ICT to provide government services online allows for quicker and convenient access to these services by citizens.
“With the use of ICT, Government aims to improve the level of public service to citizens, create a platform for interoperability and collaboration among ministries and government agencies, and harmonise government ICT operations, maintenance, training, procurement and human resources in order to improve capabilities and capacities, reduce costs and attain higher level of service,” Harmon said.
He added that redesigning the government processes by making these services online will be accomplished through the e-government network.
“This network will foster interoperability among government agencies, thus improving government’s operating procedures and making the business of government more efficient and competitive,” Harmon said.
He added that the network will also provide online interactions with citizens to save cost, save time, promote equity and transparency, remove barriers between people and information, and increase work productivity. ICT is hoped to especially benefit those in remote areas.
“Guyanese will be able to go online to submit applications for various licences submit queries and file complaints. By accessing government services online, citizens will also be able to save money by making fewer trips to government offices,” the Minister added.
However, Harmon noted that the provision of ICT services was not enough to make the public service function at maximum efficiency. Instead, he said, the Public Servants must be trained to deal with the ICT services.
According to Harmon, building capacities in the public sector through training and exposure to modern technologies is important. In this regard, he said, a Public Service Staff College would contribute immensely to developing capacities in the public sector in the use of ICT. He shared that every student who enters the college will be issued with a personal computer, immediately upon entry.
“People need to recognise that this is the new world we have to live in so that over time – we expect that in a five-year period – we would have at least 500 or more Public Servants in the public sector who are well trained, who understand the use of computers, who can link with the ICT and who can communicate with all parts of the system,” he said.
Harmon added that in order to foster citizens’ adaptation and use of online systems, internet access must be expanded countrywide, particularly to target poor and remote communities.
“Truly the Government is prepared to pave a number of public internet access points across the country. Government will also set up ICT hubs that will serve communities to facilitate citizens across the country and provide government services online,” Harmon said.
He continued, “Government will go further by providing a unified communication system for email and collaboration; this will facilitate the smooth and secure movement of electronic documents across government agencies, much quicker than the manual system.”
Meanwhile, Government has reportedly moved to raise the standard of ICT use in the public sector. It is seeking to eradicate the use of illegal software in government computer systems.
“Illegal software not only demonstrates disregard for intellectual property rights but introduces virus and makes the public sector susceptible to other cyber threats,” Harmon said.
He indicated that Government is already engaging ICT giants Microsoft and Cisco in this regard. Additionally, Government is engaging the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT) Company in a bid to buy consolidated internet which will be distributed among government sectors and government agencies through the e-government network.
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