The number of letters to the newspaper editors, as expected, are becoming weighted heavier with outright lies and wicked innuendos, designed to minimize the immense impact of the Government’s efforts to better the lives of citizens. When Finance Minister Winston Jordan declared in 2015 that this Government’s objective is to create “the Good Life” for every Guyanese, he meant in every respect.
For the most part, the promises made have been kept. Some were delayed only because a great amount of time was spent fixing and putting to right every aspect of Government that the PPP government took 23 years to destroy. We noticed a letter written by a frequent contributor to the newspaper columns accusing the Government of reneging on a promise to digitise all of Guyana in three years.
The letter writer must be wearing blinkers because the Coalition Government’s promise to build an ICT framework for nationwide broadband system has been met, only the work is not done. Like everything associated with Information Technology, the digitisation of Guyana shall remain a work in progress as technology advances.
The letter writer was unable to make the connection between the PPP’s failed fibre optic cable and the delay in our ability to provide strong, reliable 4G quality connectivity throughout the country. Do you remember that infamous billion-dollar cable that the PPP brought over the Takutu Bridge at Lethem from Brazil? The cable was to have been installed along the corridor between Lethem and Georgetown, and along the way, connect every village in the Hinterland and inland regions. But, true to form, the contractors hired to lay the cable were building contractors. Within months that delicate cable was broken up so badly that even the then project coordinator knew that it was useless.
Elections rolled around, government changed hands and the Coalition held out hope that some part of the cable may have been usable, but that was not to be. Highly qualified engineers were brought in to examine it and they found that the entire length was badly damaged, so it had to be discarded.
Here is the connection – this travesty set back the digitisation of Guyana by more than 2 years.
The Coalition government had counted on that cable to connect schools and smart classrooms, communities, health centres, libraries and meeting halls, especially in hard-to-reach areas in the hinterland like Karasabai and Apoteri, Monkey Mountain and the valleys of the Pakaraimas. But we did find other ways to connect those villages, with VSAT satellite dishes.
The Ministry of Public Telecommunications was formally established in January 2016. One of the first steps they made towards the bigger objective of national digitisation was a Needs Assessment Survey which was conducted by the German company, Detecon, in all ten regions of Guyana. The analysis identified an overwhelming need for computer training everywhere. It found that many people had never seen a computer, despite the PPP’s much touted One Laptop per Family programme.
RESPECTING OUR CITIZENS
Is the letter writer really accusing this government of disrespecting the citizens? Once again, the PPP is accusing the Coalition of the crimes that they committed themselves. Fortunately, not many Guyanese have forgotten the way the PPP Government treated us for many years – the cursing, the disrespect, the need to beg for the smallest things. That was gross disrespect meted out to an entire nation.
Between 2016 and 2019, the Telecommunications Ministry received many complaints from citizens that accused specific groups of preventing them from utilising the internet at the Community ICT hubs in their communities, e.g. on the Corentyne and Essequibo Islands. Students were prevented from doing homework assignments, studying for CXC EDPM examinations, writing their SBAs, and farmers were prevented from searching the internet to find spare parts for their combines and tractors.
But they could not stop the doctors in Orealla and Lethem from using their internet to face-time with doctors in Holland, Canada, at the GPHC or the Linden Hospital Complex whenever they need help with difficult diagnoses. These doctors now have hi-tech equipment so they no longer have to travel to the city with bio-samples.
There is much more to be done before Guyana achieves full digitization. Plans are being developed with local and international investors on several other undertakings, e.g. the landing of a subsea or terrestrial cable to strengthen Internet connectivity throughout the country.
Liberalisation of the telecommunications environment in Guyana is another undertaking that has consumed more time that was originally envisaged, partly due to severe intransigence and undue delays. However, the requisite Bills have already been signed into law as the discussions and negotiations continue.
This Coalition has no history of “trickery and gross incompetence”, for the letter writer’s information. That label belongs to the PPP. This Government has had no time to scheme, and wheel and deal with the people’s finances and resources. We have been too busy setting things in motion to make the lives of Guyanese better.
Guyana was indeed branded the most corrupt nation in the Caribbean by nearly every international lending agency, and that began in 2006. Today, after close to five years of good, honest, people-centered management by APNU+AFC, Guyana has literally pulled itself up the Transparency International corruption index (as well as other global ratings). Now the country’s international reputation is heading towards our potential – a paradise with no drugs-funded economy.
The AFC asks our Guyanese citizens to ‘Let Progress Continue’ in the hands of the APNU+AFC Coalition. We all acknowledge that our lives are better today, and that there is a lot to look forward to, even when the PPP tries to convince them that the developments we see are not there.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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