Governments must commit to ICT development in the Caribbean – PM

Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d), the Honourable Mark Phillips called on Caribbean leaders to commit to developing the necessary infrastructure to enable the widespread usage of ICTs in the region.

The senior government official told members of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO) on Sunday evening that the Government of Guyana is ready to play its part and is committed to developing the necessary infrastructure to bridge the digital gap and facilitate the digital evolution.

“Our goal must therefore be nothing less than universal service, and here I mean universal broadband service.  No country, no region, no town, no village, no community and no person should be left unconnected, for we cannot begin to speak of digital evolution without addressing the manifest injustice and inequality of the underlying digital divides.”

The senior government official made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO) 37th Annual General Meeting in Miami, Florida.

“Guyana recognises the importance of CANTO and its vision of becoming the leading authority shaping the ICT industry in the Caribbean Region and the Americas.  CANTO’s role becomes even more pertinent in light of the need to provide solutions and initiatives that will allow for the realisation of the digital evolution.

ICT POST PANDEMIC

The Prime Minister, who is the National Coordinator of the Covid19 Task Force locally, said that the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the importance of technological advancements, which his Government understands, especially as a catalyst for economic and social empowerment.

He also emphasised the importance of digital technology and its intricate link to the workforce, education, healthcare and e-commerce and his Government’s commitment to promoting sustainable development for investment and sector diversification.

Expounding further, the Prime Minister spoke to the needs of stakeholders and investors to build telecommunication networks and services in a sustainable manner to support economic activity such as trade and commerce as well as social development in the spheres of health, education and civic engagement.

“We wish for you to become invested in the sustainable development of the countries and communities within which you operate and from whence you derive value.  We would like to see patient investment prioritising long-term returns emanating from the sustainable, resilient economies we hope to build rather than cashing in on short-term windfalls.”

CREATING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT

Prime Minister Phillips also used the occasion to highlight Guyana’s many advances in telecommunications and innovations to facilitate the digital evolution.

In this regard, he mentioned Guyana’s telecommunications sector’s liberalisation on October 5, 2020, which ended a 30-year monopoly on fixed landline and international long-distance services.  He said that since the sector’s liberalisation, Guyana has reaped significant benefits from new and improved telecommunications services, as well as lower rates and higher service quality.

He also emphasised the installation and operation of additional submarine cables, which will result in a more resilient internet connection; while the removal of VAT from internet data for residential customers by the Government of Guyana was listed as an important drive to make more spectrum available to the industry. This, he explained, is particularly critical to the 700MHz band, in order to expand coverage and enable the deployment of LTE and next-generation networks.  The three-day conference is being held under the theme “Enabling the Digital Evolution”.

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