– Comes with more “bluff and fluff” for 2018 – PPP/C MP
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
A consortium of “bluff” and “fluff” projects; that is People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Gillian Burton- Persaud’s description of Budget 2018. She told the National Assembly as much when she made her contribution to the Budget debates.
Burton-Persaud said that despite the fact that it has not been able to deliver on many of its promises, the government has the audacity to come with “more bluff and fluff.”
Burton told the National Assembly that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a very important component of a country’s developmental process in this modern system of things. She said that the government is holding back development in its failure to provide good and proper ICT systems.
Bluffs of 2015-2016
To prove that Government is lacking in the implementation of its ICT measures, Burton-Persaud went as far back as 2015, when APNU+AFC first assumed office and chronicled the journey to present.
She noted that the APNU+AFC chose to rebrand the One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) project into a One Laptop Per Teacher (OLPT) project after realizing that 40,000 laptops were expected from China. “They decided that it was good to give it to the teachers; but some teachers got the laptop and some were asked to pay $30,000 per laptop but they are still to make way into the education system today.”
She then turned attention to 2016 when the government touted the creation of an information hub in Government agencies. Burton- Persaud questioned, “What has become of that? How many hubs are there in the government agencies?”
Burton even noted that there was a $326M allocation that was designed to facilitate interconnection within agencies, state building and education facilities. “What happened to the setting up of ICT hubs in communities? We are yet to hear how many communities benefitted from that.
Burton-Persaud reminded government that it had promised to enable communities to transcend from poverty to the good life using information technology. “To date I am not aware that anybody was able to transcend from poverty to a good life with ICT, the hardship continues.”
Burton-Persaud said that in 2017 the government managed to continue its trend of reneging on promises. She said that the government had promised to transform Guyana by the creation of a digital economy through ICT. She also noted that there was supposed to be several services offered online to citizens. But nothing ever materialized.
In fact, Burton-Persaud said that it is even hard to access ICT in the Chambers of the National Assembly.
She said that in 2017 the government also encouraged citizens to take advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities that the World Wide Web (WWW) offers. “They even promised the liberalization of telecommunication sector to open new frontiers of innovation; lots of flamboyant words but no action.”
“How can you access the WWW when you cannot get electricity, no lightning-fast access speed; you cannot sit home and do business because of blackout. The ICT programmes are simply marking time in Guyana. Yes it is nice to tell people they can get jobs and expand businesses online but how can they do that with the slow internet, how?”
Burton-Persaud noted the fact that there are limited jobs in Guyana. She said that the government should be happy that jobs are available for citizens to make use of online. She said that the least the government can do is to make sure that it provides what is needed for persons to take advantage of the many opportunities.
“ICT is not at the finger tips of single mothers who may want to work from home, why not?”
Burton-Persaud said, “In order to keep glorious promises of utilizing ICT and all that it has to offer, we have to ensure that the components are there to keep it alive and keep it vibrant are in place, and that is not so.”
Burton-Persaud recalled attending the first digital wealth summit in Guyana. She said that at that forum, Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes, promised young entrepreneurs that apart from having good connectively, before the end of the year, a particular payment system will be made available in Guyana. “We still are waiting.”
Burton-Persaud did not speak much on the provisions and measures for ICT in 2018. She said that is because there is nothing much to speak of, “just more bluff and fluff.”
She said that she perused the Budget several times and saw little that speaks to ICT. “There is nothing much listed that speaks specifically to ICT. Why? I perused up and down and see snippets but nothing bold that says this is the project for ICT in Guyana.”
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