By PAT DIAL
Information Technology (IT) has moved with such rapidity in the modern world that it gives greater economic, technical, social and political advantage to those countries which are further advanced in such technology over those which are lesser advanced.
But likewise, the rapid advance of such technology in any country has always disadvantaged large numbers of persons in the Society such as older people and poor and lower paid people since the IT Revolution would have passed over their heads.
Every modern state has therefore tried to get into the IT Revolution to retain its place in the world power structure and to address the plight of those citizens who have been left out of this mainstream development, thus inevitably falling into greater social and economic distress and poverty. During the Industrial Revolution the same trend occurred which led to the emergence of violent groups such as the Luddites and Saboteurs.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the Guyanese State grasped the importance of being fully immersed in the IT Revolution. It began to try various methodologies to address this problem. Unfortunately, the mass of the population was only very slowly grasping the danger of being left behind and the State’s efforts, so far, have not been as impacting as expected.
The most important of these methodologies was to give each family a free laptop computer and to mount countrywide training in their use. The obvious achievement of this “One laptop per family” programme was that it introduced the population to the computer. Several thousand persons learnt the basics of manipulating the machine. It broke the mystique of the computer for both adults and children.
At the same time, teaching of Information Technology in the Secondary Schools was introduced and the Caribbean Examinations Council offered it as one of the subjects for the CXC Examinations. These efforts of the “One laptop per family” programme and IT in the Educational System did not bring about the immediate explosion which was hoped for, but they had brought Guyana to the point of an immediate and successful take off into the heart of the IT Revolution.
In keeping with this movement into the IT Revolution, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications has outlined its first step for the New Year.
The Ministry will utilize US $17 million from the funds Norway had granted Guyana under REDD to give basic computer training to some 170 communities involving 89,000 persons. This programme will be conducted under the auspices of the Industry and Innovation Unit of the Ministry and be managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The basic training as outlined by Minister Catherine Hughes will include “being comfortable with the computer, internet access, how you create an email address, how you would communicate by email, maintain an email account, and then into the social media which could serve as a vehicle for entrepreneurs to market their products internationally and locally.”
In this process of training there would be a second tier where the Ministry would be collaborating with the Private Sector to be able to equip participants with particular skills in office productivity, entry skills and coding and software development. The Ministry has announced that it has already commenced its citizens’ outreach and awareness activities.
Minister Catherine Hughes must be commended for this initiative of again seriously getting Guyana back into the heart of the IT Revolution which the “One laptop per family” had launched.
There are a few things that officials have to keep in mind to bring the Minister’s vision to full realization: Special provision and encouragement have to be given to the old, the poor and less privileged, to bring them into the stream to take advantage of the training offered. In this regard, the methods used in other countries could be successfully employed.
Places of training should be on the bus routes so that trainees could cheaply and regularly attend classes. When this is impossible, itinerant trainers could be used. “Computer libraries” should be established where computer training students could go and use the computer. The person who supervises such “computer libraries” should have some knowledge of computers so that he/she could assist the learners.
If one has one’s own computer or has full access to one, the learner is able to assimilate what is taught much quicker since a few hours of classroom training per week would not suffice. Some scheme should be worked out where learners could buy subsidized computers. Also, computers should be assembled here and these would be much less expensive than brand name products. One local company assembles on a small scale.
Most important and a fundamental factor in the programme achieving full success is that the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company(GTT) must connect landlines to all trainees who need them. The Ministry at the highest level will have to intercede with GTT since the Company is very reluctant to honour its obligation of providing a universal landline service. Without the landline, one could not have Internet.
Every effort should be made to support this training programme and bring it to success.
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