OLPF: Bringing Information Technology into Guyanese homes

As the digital age takes over, countries around the world are adopting more futuristic development strategies, and it is now fully recognised that Information Communications Technology (ICT) is the new frontier.

This reality is not lost in Guyana, and through the Government, much effort is being made to bridge the digital divide, by providing access to information technology, the internet, training and skills development to families across Guyana that will enable citizens to become part of the global information and knowledge highway.

Ameridian women with their Government laptops

This is being done through the revolutionary One Laptop per Family (OLPF) programme, a national initiative that aims to place Guyanese families who are not so privileged, on equal footing with those who are can afford such technology. This way, no citizen will be left behind in this technological age.

 

There has been much talk about the programme, and the overwhelming majority has welcomed this revolutionary initiative. Moreover, countries in the region are now exploring the implementation of a similar model.

Students and members of the Bernice Mansell Foundation recieve laptops from the OLPF Secretariat

To date, more than 31,000 Guyanese families have collected their laptops, but the programme extends beyond just giving a device to a family. In the initial phases, hundreds of ICT hubs were created in the various regions, which served as training centers, where persons received training on the workings of the computer.

This current phases target 6000 recipients of the East Coast, East Bank and Georgetown areas.

Tremendous gift

 

During at recent distribution exercise at Enterprise where a total of 287 were given out, Timothy Smith, a resident of Melanie said that, “It is a tremendous gift from the Government that will spearhead what I want to do in terms of being educated about the computer, because today we are moving fantastically in the technological world.”

Residents of Sophia with thier laptops. Also in picture is Presidential Advisor on Community Development, Odinga Lumumba

At West Ruimveldt, another recipient, Rosel Wilson who is a retired teacher, said that she was very happy to see that the government is securing the future of, and preparing the younger generation for the technological advancing world, while simultaneously educating and introducing ICT to the older folks who may not have any or very little knowledge of it. She added this programme will benefit every household in Guyana in some way or the other.

 

Laptops are also provided to visually impaired persons. They are supplied with the  software; Job Access with Speech (JAWS) that allows for the visually impaired user to read the screen of the laptop using either a text-to-speech output or a refreshable Braille display. A keyboard and a headphone each were also given to the beneficiaries.

Region Four residents with their laptops at a training session

Ganesh Singh of the Guyana Council for Persons with Disabilities will conduct the training in the use of the laptop. “The reason that it is more than the mandatory 10 hours training is that we would teach them the keyboard so they learn to touch type, so we take about six hours to teach them the key board, then we get into Microsoft words and internet use,” he said.

Another visually impaired recipient Desiree Noel Harniss expressed her happiness at being presented with a laptop and the opportunity to gain the skills to use it.

“I am happy to be here and to receive my laptop. I was born blind, and I think this would be good for me, I never went to school, that is why I am happy to receive it,” she said.

 

Another recipient, Rudolph Andrew Wickham expressed similar sentiments. “What I am actually glad about is that I would get to learn how to use a computer. I ‘m glad about getting to chat with friends abroad and here in Guyana,” he said.

OLPF training in Region Three

This programme is the brainchild of former President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. It was launched in November 2011, a historic day which saw 1,000 Guyanese families receiving their laptops as the distribution phase of Government’s OLPF programme officially commenced.

This project, which targets 90,000 families will leave a lasting legacy in Guyana’s development paradigm that will positively impact future generations as the country seeks to build a new knowledge-based society.

 

The OLPF project is part of a wider, more comprehensive ICT strategy that the Government of Guyana has embarked on, part of which is the construction of scores of ICT labs at secondary schools across the country. The fibre optic cable from Brazil to Guyana will ensure that high- speed internet becomes readily available and also create more jobs as more call centres will become operational.

Members of the Blind Institute of Guyana getting acquainted with thier laptops

The Government has been working in close partnership with the Government of the People’s Republic of China in the realisation of this project. This resulted in a Chinese company being the supplier of the laptops and the setting up of a Haier service centre in Guyana.          The Chinese Government had been awarded a tender for the supply of 31,000 laptops valued US$8.5M.

Thirty- eight training centres became operational in a matter of days in communities countrywide, and facilitated technical supervision and internet connectivity for recipients of the laptops.

Each hub was equipped with a trainer, electricity and internet connectivity with an option to be operational 24 hours if the need had arisen.

Current distribution

The most recent distribution saw several teams from the OLPF Secretariat fanning out across Region 4, and distributing laptops at several locations.

On the East Coast, at the All Star Sports Club, Supply, Mahaica, 78 laptops were distributed to recipients of Supply and Strathavon, while at Chowbay’s residence, Helena, another team distributed 257 of the devices.

 

A total of 277 from Enmore to Bachelor’s Adventure benefited from the distribution at the Enmore Resource Centre, while 112 Buxtonians received theirs at the Ambassadors of Buxton Development Association Building, with the exception of visually impaired, Joan Johnson. Staff of the OLPF Secretariat delivered the laptop to Johnson at her home.

Hinterland students who recieved their laptops through the OLPF programme

On the East Bank, at the Farm Community Centre, another team distributed 114 laptops to residents from Herstelling to Little Diamond. Sixty-five residents of Soesdyke were the beneficiaries of the exercise at the Camille Institute, Lot 1 – 4 Soesdyke, East Bank Demerara, while 85 residents of Kuru Kururu benefitted from the exercise at the Board of Industrial Training Centre, in their community.

In Georgetown, at the Sophia Exhibition Centre, 280 laptops were distributed to residents of Sophia, 170 at an exercise at the Hebrew Family of Guyana in North Ruimveldt to residents of South Ruimveldt Park, Lamaha Springs and Festival City, while 139 were presented at the Guyana Islamic Trust building in Albouystown to residents of Albouystown, Laing Avenue, Yarrow Dam, Riverview, Ruimveldt and Alexander Village. Several other areas in the region also benefitted.

The PPP/C Government will continue to spend huge sums to make the Guyanese people among the most computer literate in the world, as part of a strategy of ensuring that every citizen is fully equipped to take advantage of opportunities brought about by Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) that are currently driving the world.

Come September 2013, government will complete installing infrastructure networks, inclusive of fibre optic cables that will realise free internet access, along with high speed delivery of e-government content to all, inclusive of the laptop recipients.

 

A command of the use of ICT by all citizens has the potential to facilitate dramatic increases in social and economic welfare, and to catalyse major transformative changes in Guyana.

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