Improved internet, telecommunications services under US$17M GRIF project – hinterland, poor and remote communities to benefit
DPI, GUYANA, Monday, February 19, 2018
Residents in hinterland, poor and remote communities will benefit from improved and increased internet access and telecommunications services through the Hinterland E-Services, E-Access Project. This programme will be executed under the US$17M Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) and managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes, speaking with the Department of Public Information (DPI) following an outreach to Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine), said the ultimate goal is to improve telecommunications and internet access in communities and more so, to bring services to communities that are without.
The Minister explained the project has the solar panel and training components and also entails topics such as steps to using a computer, how to send email, create a Facebook page, among others.
During a meeting with the regional administration in Lethem on February 15, 2018, concerns were raised by Region Nine Chairman, Brian Allicock that when computers are distributed, there is limited to no training provided and the devices are often not utilised in many instances.
Minister Hughes assured that basic and advanced training will be conducted under the GRIF-funded project.
“We are very excited that with this funding, we are also going to be able to create community ICT hubs and those community ICT hubs, we’ve done 91 on the Coast, but again, this is what we are trying to bring to communities here [Region 9].”
There are numerous possibilities for families to communicate, the minister highlighted, citing the example of parents being able to contact their children who may be in residential schools and residents in far-flung areas being able to contact relatives in Georgetown or even in other countries.
Minister Hughes pointed to the benefits to be accrued by the economy, Education, Health and importantly entrepreneurship, as a result of improved internet access.
“Improved and increased internet access to any individual or any population has a direct effect on the functioning of the country, your Gross National Product and that is because it allows individuals to benefit from learning opportunities. Distance learning in the areas of health, there is telemedicine.”
Minister Hughes and her team which included Chairman of the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) Floyd Levi, Director of Community Development and Social Management, Phillip Walcott of the NDMA, Outreach Coordinator Donnella
Collison and Technical Officer, Catherine Martin of the Public Telecommunications Ministry conducted a three-day outreach in several communities in the region and Fairview in Region Eight.
The Public Telecommunications Minister said the trip has been very positive and emotional is some respect.
“Emotional because when you consider that some of these communities don’t even have a telephone signal. That is why it was so important to pass that legislation [Telecommunications Act] and we continue to work hard and fast to put things in place because we have to find creative ways of getting more telephone services into areas, where some of the telephone companies feel there is not a big enough economic return.”
The Minister further explained that the new legislation has a Universal Service Fund, where companies that are given licenses can contribute to the fund, which will then be used to provide telecommunications services to underserved areas.
Minister Hughes said the trip also revealed that in many indigenous communities the residents know and understand the value of connectivity, but have not had the access to the services.
“The good thing is that you don’t have to sell the concept of why there needs to be internet connectivity. Most of them have phones, it’s just that they can’t use it but as they travel they are able to go to areas that have internet and they’re texting.”
The most productive aspect of the outreach, the Telecommunications Minister said, was the fact that in at least three communities, there are buildings dedicated for use as community ICT hubs, some of which were constructed and wired since 2013/2014, but no service was provided.
While the Minister regrets that nothing was done for so many years, she said that “it’s a plus to know that there is some infrastructure there”.
Minister Hughes reiterated that the aim is to connect the smaller communities that may have fewer people but still need access if equal opportunities are to be provided in the Hinterland as on the Coastland.
By: Stacy Carmichael