CANTO opens 35th meeting in Guyana

─Guyana positioning itself as an ICT hub in the Caribbean … Minister Cathy Hughes

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, January 27, 2019

Approximately 180 members and stakeholders from 30 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America are in Guyana for the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organizations’ (CANTO) 35th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Mini Expo.  It officially opened Sunday evening at the Guyana Marriott Hotel, Kingston Georgetown.

CANTO is the leading trade association of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Caribbean. One of its founding members, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) along with the Ministry of Public Telecommunications and CARICOM collaborated to host the AGM in Guyana.

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Delivering the keynote address, Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes acknowledged the role that CANTO played in bringing together regional telecommunications operators.

She said that many of the industries across the region that have been relied on for many years, no longer have the scope to support national and economic developments. Therefore, countries must diversify into other sectors that will provide opportunities for real economic transformation, and a strong digital agenda will allow for that transformation.

With this in mind, the Government of Guyana in 2016, established the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, with the aim of transforming the country’s economic landscape.  Minister Hughes enumerated some of the innovative works and creativity she has been observing in her travels around the country.

“We continue to work assiduously to ensure that the potential of these bright minds is realised. Critical to the success, to this endeavour, however, is the creation of an enabling environment to foster their growth and evolution. There is a need to move ideas, not only in Guyana, but the entire region, from beyond mere concepts and from thought to completion, and that must include access to financing for start-up businesses.”

This is a major role that the Ministry has assumed as part of their mandate to develop an enabling environment, and for increasing the use of technologies across all sectors in Guyana.

Highlighting some of the key successes, she reminded her audience that her ministry has commissioned 173 Community ICT hubs which provide free internet access in most of the Administrative Regions, especially hinterland and rural areas. Hackathons and Code Sprint competitions were also hosted to spot, promote and support emerging talents, along with Code Camps, outreach programmes and conferences.

As part of Guyana’s National Digital Transformation strategy, all Government ministries are now connected along with over 300 educational institutions. Plans are also in place to add hospitals and police stations. By 2020, more than 200 government services will also be available online. The National Broadband Expansion project is onstream and the Government has also been focusing on developing new legislation to support the growth of ICT, the Minister noted.

All of these initiatives, Minister Hughes pointed out, has seen Guyana positioning itself as an ICT hub in the Caribbean.

GTT’s Chief Executive Officer, Justin Nedd said that the telephone company over the past 28 years, has played its role in bringing the Guyanese population into the digital age. To date, the GTT has delivered 140,000 landlines and 300,000 mobile connections.

According to Nedd, the role of GTT is not done and anticipates continued work with CANTO to move the region forward.

Outgoing Chairman of CANTO, Julian Wilkins provided an overview of some of the achievements over the past three years, with one of its main focus on partnerships and inclusivity.

“CANTO is very keen on all stakeholders within the ICT environment, our mission has evolved over the years by promoting inclusiveness, that is embracing all ICT members. We advocated on key issues of the day more often than we did in the past and we strive to create an environment that encourages investments and innovation.”

General Secretary of CANTO, Teresa Wankin said that it is only appropriate that CANTO begins 2019 by having its AGM in the territory of one of its founding members, GTT, in a country rich in natural resources.

Some of the technological advancements in Guyana were on display by GTT and its partner Intellect Storm. Other exhibitors from CARICOM also had their products on display.

CANTO was founded in 1985 and has grown to 130 membership in more than 35 countries. Its last AGM was held in Trinidad and Tobago in January 2018.

This four-day event is being held under the theme ‘Transitioning to a digital region … The Opportunities and The Challenges’. The next four days will see presentations and workshops on the current state, growth and development of ICTs.

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