By Abena- Rockcliffe- Campbell
“We have to change the focus and identify our own priorities as a nation. This is the time for Guyana to think big but act in a manner reflecting our small country.” That is the enthusiasm that characterized the mood of Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, as she spoke about her recent trip to China.
Two weeks ago, a delegation from the Ministry of Public Telecommunications and the Citizens Security Programme—which falls under the Ministry of Public Security—visited China on what Hughes described, yesterday, as an exceptionally successful “fact finding mission.”
She spoke about this “mission” at a press conference hosted at her Camp Street office.
Hughes told the media that she got a firsthand view of the most advanced, state-of-the-art technologies in the field of ICT.
Accompanying Hughes on the trip and at yesterday’s press conference were Head of the E-Government Unit, Floyd Levi, and Manager of the Citizen Security Strengthening Project, Clement Henry.
The team visited Chinese technology giant, Huawei Technologies, the company that built Guyana’s Coastal fibre optic network.
Hughes said that the visit afforded opportunities for her and her team to meet with the key officials of Huawei; discuss all aspects of the ongoing maintenance and expansion of Guyana’s US$32M E-Government network and explore opportunities for training – creating new skills (e.g. Guyanese ICT engineers) and upgrading existing technological talent.
Hughes said that the team had fruitful meetings with Huawei’s principals on possible areas of cooperation at their Shenzhen headquarters; toured their factories, universities and installations in Shanghai and Beijing.
The Minister said that the team participated in “Huawei Connect 2016”, a three-day global integrated technology conference in Shanghai, which attracted some 20,000 ICT leaders and experts from over 120 countries, and which provided a platform for the leaders in the ICT industry around the world to view the latest technological developments in action, to attend information workshops on cutting-edge solutions such as Cloud Computing and big-data management.
Hughes said that the visit allowed her team, especially the E-Government unit, to explore new directions, and create new strategies that can propel the development of a green, smart, information-driven Guyana.
The Minister said, “It’s about implementing strategies to bridge the digital/technological and economic gaps we have today. And it is about creating smart cities, safe cities and a Smart nation – A Smart Guyana.”
She said, “It is clear to me today that we cannot solve Guyana’s problems in the traditional way. What’s exciting is that with the use of existing technologies, we have the capacity and many opportunities to truly connect, transform and innovate.”
The Minister continued, “Here we are talking about establishing an interconnected digital platform that will provide Government services to citizens in an efficient, cost effective and time saving manner.
It is about establishing 21st Century systems that can manage all government and private sector data in a safe and secure manner … no more collecting and disposal of mountains of paper after a flood … no more loss of important information that was only available on paper.”
Hughes said that increasing bandwidth and improving levels of internet accessibility. It is about better telephone and other communications services among all of our citizens. It is an undisputed fact all over the world that improved bandwidth access by citizens has a corresponding positive effect in their rate of development, their level of education and the country’s per capita income.
She said that interconnectivity is the foundation upon which Guyana will build this integrated cross-sectoral platform.
“What does that platform look like? It offers citizens the benefits of tele-medicine, i.e. having a doctor at a hospital in Georgetown connect with a patient in Mabaruma or Nappi Vilage, seeing and communicating with the patient and healthcare worker in real time and recommending treatment options,” said Hughes.
In the area of tele-education the Minister said that the initiative will allow lessons delivered in a high school in Georgetown to be received in an interactive format in far flung hinterland regions where teachers are limited.
“It’s about the use of e-books to reduce the imbalance between those who can and those who cannot purchase textbooks. “
Hughes said that there is also the “exciting” opportunity for E-Commerce. She said that as previously reported, the use of digital technology will impact how you apply for a passport or driver’s license. “It will impact business – imports, exports, industry, finance, social services, and tourism. It will also develop a new green energy sector and implement new, innovative ways for Agricultural endeavors. The technology already exists to make this change.”
Meanwhile, Head of the Government’s E Governance Project, Floyd Levi said that since the project was rolled out in 2010 with the US$32M provided through a loan from China’s Exim Bank, several shortcomings have been identified. The visit to the company in China provided the opportunity to request assistance in resolving and addressing these deficiencies.
Clement Henry, Project Manager of the Citizens Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP) under the Ministry of Public Security, explained that the trip provided insight for the effective execution of the Smart City, Safe City Programme and the establishment of Information and Integrated System. The latter is a work in progress.
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