Budget 2019 Encapsulates Many of MoPT’s Programmes… Minister Hughes

Public Telecommunications Minister, Cathy Hughes, has said that she is extremely pleased with Budget 2019 which was delivered yesterday by Finance Minister, Winston Jordan. She has extended her own and the Ministry’s Congratulations to Minister Jordan for what she describes as a Budget that connects Guyanese to the future.

Themed “Transforming the Economy, Empowering People, Building Sustainable Communities for the Good Life”, Budget 2019 has allocated $4 Billion to the technological development of Guyanese students and adults.
Minister Hughes expressed immense pleasure that the MOPT’s initiatives have received the financial support needed to stimulate innovation among our highly talented population. She said that over the past 15 months, the Ministry concentrated much of its efforts on training. “We introduced our young people to Computer Coding and Programming, Robotics, Animation and general computer literacy,” she said. Young female students also continued to receive special attention in the annual programmes which are designed to encourage girls to enter and excel in the ICT field. The ‘Girls in ICT’ programme is a global one led by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Minister Hughes also mentioned Guyana’s high potential for local and foreign investments in the ICT sector. She expressed optimism that our young population will continue to benefit from these investments. “Many have already demonstrated their affinity for Technology and a strong desire to innovate,” she said, alluding to Minister Jordan’s reference during his Budget presentation to “a young (Guyanese) Innovator who has been producing 3D-printed prostheses at a cost that is half the price of a comparable (imported) product”. The Finance Minister was referencing the entrepreneurs in Guyana’s fledgling ICT Sector who are developing technology-based Applications.

ICT in Education
She is pleased that the sum allotted will tighten the bonds being developed between the Ministries of Education and Public Telecommunications. Some of the monies will be spent to introduce Robotics in the curricula at primary schools and selected secondary schools. And the Finance Minister said in his presentation yesterday, “We will expand the SMART classrooms programme, and we will be looking at Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Animation and IT programmes that have not been attempted in the past”.

He added that smart classrooms will be introduced throughout the country, with the Santa Rosa and Paramakatoi Secondary Schools being among the priority schools in 2019.

“The budget for 2019 has encapsulated many of the Ministry’s programmes, some of which are already underway,” Minister Hughes said. She pointed out that already through the MOPT, approximately 1400 persons have received training through a wide variety of programmes. “The whole philosophy is that we are using ICT’s to transform Guyana”.

Persons with Disabilities
Part of the budgetary allocation for the MOPT will assist persons living with disabilities. The budget caters for tax concessions for purchasers of private vehicles that are specially equipped for persons with impairments. It also proposes tax rebates on smart cell phones with built-in apps and accessibility features for persons with visual or hearing challenges.

“We have found that many persons with disabilities cannot afford to purchase these smart phones so we have devised a scheme that will lessen the cost, to their benefit,” Minister Hughes reiterated.

Accelerated ICT Sector
The main thrust of the Ministry of Public Telecommunications is to provide 21st Century opportunities, and so 175 primary schools, 108 secondary schools, 34 tertiary institutions including UG and the Guyana School of Agriculture; 9 residential schools and residential homes have already been connected with enhanced ICT facilities to allow young people to develop specialized skills free of charge. The Kato and Orealla Secondary Schools were the most recent to be connected to the national network, i.e. in October 2018.

In addition, Budget 2019 has provisions for new Internet (ICT) Hubs in several Hinterland villages including Phillipi in Region Eight; Rewa, Surama and Toka in Region 9; and Kimbia and Wiruni in Upper Berbice, Region 10. The cost to connect these communities to the network is budgeted at $375M, and it will benefit about 11,390 residents.

According to Finance Minister Jordan, “Transformation of the ICT sector will be accelerated in 2019 with the proposed national broadband infrastructure”. In the medium to long term, the government will continue to connect the general public and government agencies to the worldwide web as it expands e-government networks and services.

“Every country’s greatest asset is its human capital. This government continues to make good on our promise to advance and broaden the scope of opportunities for our youths, and we believe that ICTs will become the most influential force of change”. Minister Catherine Hughes