REMARKS BY MINISTER CATHERINE HUGHES – Opening Ceremony on CYBER SECURITY WORKSHOP FOR EDUCATION STAKEHOLDERS NORTH RUIMVELDT SECONDARY SCHOOL’s AUDITORIUM
MINISTRY OF PUBLIC TELECOMMUNICATIONS –Wednesday June 14, 2017
Good Morning, Everyone. I’m here today to add my voice to the international effort to promote CYBER AWARENESS. It is as important here in Guyana as it is anywhere in the world. After all, most people believe that the Internet and Communication Technologies have turned the world into a global village. There’s room for argument there, but we’re content in the sure knowledge that anything could be seen, researched and purchased via the Internet. In the same vein, we are very conscious of the fact that the Internet provides a facility for bad people to do bad things.
It appears that the incidents being recorded in our own school system in recent times are extremely prevalent around the world – incidents of online bullying, and the use of social media for other kinds of cruel, harmful acts. Worst of all, it provides a vehicle for unsolicited, pornographic-like photographs to be circulated in schools which turn into grave embarrassments for the victims, their family, friends, their school and our country too.
We (the Ministry of Public Telecommunications) are working assiduously towards universal access to the Internet, and the many citizens who are already connected, have learnt so much in a short timespan. Our students especially have become familiar with almost everything that is available online.
One half of the equation know that the Internet is a good, extremely progressive tool and that we are heading in the right direction, i.e. ensuring that our citizens actually benefit from ICT. Students are seizing opportunities for higher education, signing up for online training courses; while others are able to research the wide range of exciting entrepreneurial opportunities.
However, with all the good that the Internet brings, we have to deal simultaneously with the negative effects too, like unwholesome content and threats to our security.
With the easy availability of online data, it becomes easier for your information, your online accounts to be hijacked. You must have heard the stories about information at some huge North American and European conglomerates being stolen by hackers and placed in the public domain. Maybe you’ve heard or read about the countless incidents of identity theft; or of people with very bad intentions getting access to little children and luring them away from home. And I know you know that online bullying is common, even in Guyana.
Different countries and various groups are devising different strategies to deal with this major concern in schools. This intervention, this workshop, is about finding solutions to the challenges of protecting our children at every tier of the school system.
I came across a mantra recently that is directed at students. It advises them to STOP and THINK before they CONNECT. I am certain that our ITU resource persons for this very important workshop, Dr. Kay Xuereb and Mr. Sylvester Cadet, will open your eyes to the many dangers that could become real when our children who use the web are unaware of certain things.
I hope that she will infuse you with the urge to pay really close attention to the online activities of the children in your care, whether you’re their parents or guardians; their teachers or instructors; their guidance counselors, headmaster or headmistress.
In this scenario, there is no difference in the role that is required of us adults. We have to do whatever it takes to make our children become conscious of the possibilities lurking behind their cell phones and computer screens. We have to teach them to be cautious when talking to people they don’t know, and even with the people they think they know; and we have to teach them how to deal with online bullies.
Some countries recently began observing Cyber Security Awareness Month in October. I hereby commit to approaching my Government with a proposal to have Guyana join this movement this October. Our unwavering intention is to turn Guyana’s population into a digitally competent one that is uncompromising on safety and responsibility!
We will ensure that everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of the Internet while keeping ourselves safe. The old adage “EACH ONE TEACH ONE” applies here. This is the message I leave with you today.
Catherine A. Hughes MP