Guyanese youth join calls for more ICT infrastructure in rural, hinterland areas

Two Guyanese youths have joined their counterparts around the world in calling for adequate ICT infrastructure to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural communities.

The two youths, Aliyah Hassan and Troy Alfred, are part of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security’s ‘Young Influencers’ programme. They joined youths around the world to participate in an EU-UN virtual youth forum on the 59th Session of the Commission for Social Development.

During her presentation, Ms. Hassan noted that COVID-19 has changed the way of life of people worldwide, with many relying on digital technology to get on with their daily lives. She added that the virtual meeting is a testimony of the critical role technology has on social development and the well-being of all, including youth.

Young Influencers, Aliyah Hassan and Troy Alfred

“As young people, we have adjusted quite comfortably to this new way of life…we can attend online classes from the comfort of our homes, though the value of in-person learning and human contact with our peers are well recognised. We have seen the emergence of young entrepreneurs, using digital technologies, to creatively market their ventures, ranging from prepackaged vegetables to delivery and online services,” she noted.

However, Ms. Hassan explained that while the demand for digital technologies is growing, inadequate ICT infrastructure and inequitable access to the internet and devices are increasing the digital divide among youth. This, she said, has resulted in unequal academic opportunities for children and youth, particularly those living in poverty and in rural and hinterland communities.

To address this, Mr. Alfred told the forum that the Government of Guyana has ramped up efforts to ensure equal access to education, job opportunities and other social programmes even as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Soon the ‘One Laptop per Family’ initiative will be reintroduced to ensure that every child has the opportunity to not only be connected to an ICT hub, but has the required equipment through which they can pursue their studies,” he said.

Mr. Alfred commended the initiative, which he said, allows Guyanese youth the opportunity to share their perspectives and engage with other youth from around the world. He also emphasised the importance of having youth voices in such a forum. 

Friday’s virtual event was aimed at fostering youth participation in the discussion on this year’s theme of the Commission for Social Development: ‘Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all.’ Twenty-two other countries participated in the virtual session. It was organised by the Permanent Mission of Portugal, the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.