CANTO opens 35th meeting in Guyana

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─Guyana positioning itself as an ICT hub in the Caribbean- Minister Hughes

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, January 27, 2019

Some one hundred and eighty members and stakeholders from thirty countries, including the Caribbean are in Guyana for the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organizations (CANTO)’s 35th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Mini Expo which officially opened this evening, at the Guyana Marriott Hotel, Kingston Georgetown.

CANTO is the leading trade association of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Caribbean. One of its founding members, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) along with the Ministry of Public Telecommunications and CARICOM facilitated the hosting of the meeting in Guyana.

Delivering the feature address, Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes acknowledged the role that CANTO played in facilitating the process of bringing together regional telecommunications operators.

Minister Hughes said many of the industries across the region that have been relied upon for many years, no longer have the scope required to support national and economic requirement. Therefore, countries must diversify into other sectors that will provide opportunities for real economic transformation, and a strong digital agenda will allow for that transformation.

With this in mind, the Government of Guyana, in 2015, established the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, with the aim of transforming the country’s landscape with the use of ICT.

Minister Hughes highlighted some of the innovative work and imagination she observed over the last three years, especially by the youths using robotics application.

“We continue to work assiduously to ensure that the potential of these bright minds is realised. Critical to the success, to this endeavour, however, is the creation of an enabling environment to foster their growth and evolution. There is a need to move ideas, not only in Guyana, but the entire region, from beyond mere concepts and from thought to completion and that must include more finance to facilitate more start-ups.”

This is the role, Minister Hughes said that her ministry has assumed as part of their mandate to develop an enabling environment for the increased use of ICT across all sectors within Guyana over the last three years.

Highlighting some of the key successes within the sector, Minister Hughes announced that her ministry commissioned 173 community ICT hubs which provide free internet access in most of the Administrative Regions, especially those hinterland and rural areas. Hackathon and Code Sprint were also hosted to spot, promote and support emerging talents, along with coding camps, outreach programmes and conferences.

As part of Guyana’s National Digital Transformation strategy, all of the Government ministries are now connected and over 300 educational institutions. Plans are also in place to add the hospitals and police stations. By 2020, more 200 government services will also be available online. A draft National ICT plan was also developed and the National Broadband project is onstream and the Government has also been focusing on developing new legislation to support the growth of ICT, the Minister noted.

All of these initiatives, Minister Hughes pointed out has seen Guyana positioning itself as an ICT hub in the Caribbean.

GTT’s Chief Executive Officer, Justin Nedd said that the telephone company over the past 28 years, has played its role in bringing the Guyanese population into the digital age. To date, the GTT has delivered 140,000 landlines and 300,000 mobile connections.

According to Nedd, the role of GTT is not done and anticipates continued work with CANTO to move the region forward.

Outgoing Chairman of CANTO, Julian Wilkins provided an overview of some of the achievements over the past three years, with one of its main focus on partnerships and inclusivity.

“CANTO is very keen on all stakeholders within the ICT environment, our mission has evolved over the years by promoting inclusiveness, that is embracing all ICT members. We advocated on key issues of the day more often than we did in the past and we strive to create an environment that encourages investments and innovation.”

General Secretary of CANTO, Teresa Wankin said that it is only appropriate that CANTO begin 2019 by hosting its meeting with one of its founding members, GTT in a country rich with an abundance of natural resources.

Some of the technological advancements in Guyana was on display by GTT and its partner Intellect. CARICOM companies and others also had their products on display

CANTO was founded in 1985 and has grown to have over 130 members and its presence in more than 35 countries. Its last AGM was held in Trinidad and Tobago in January 2018.

The four-day event is being held under the theme ‘Transitioning to a digital region. The opportunities and the challenges.’ The next four days will see presentations and workshops regarding the current state, growth and development of ICT.

Synieka Thorne.

Images: Keno George.