Fast, reliable internet access will transform Lethem

– Govt considering partnership with telephone companies to establish microwave network

Access to fast, reliable and efficient internet in Region Nine, Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo will pave the way for tremendous opportunities in the areas of Education, Health and Entrepreneurship.

Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes during an outreach in the region told residents of Lethem that the vision is to ensure that those pursuing higher education do not have to leave their town to study at an institution in Georgetown due to a lack of those facilities in the region.

Minister Hughes explained that this will be possible through smart classrooms. “You could actually dial into that class that is taking place at the UG [University of Guyana] Campus and you will be able to have the opportunity to complete your University degree.”

The Telecommunications Minister said online studying is the way of the future and the government is committed to providing the infrastructure to make this possible for all Guyanese.

Another important sector that will benefit from efficient internet access is Health, Minister Hughes noted since there are insufficient medical institutions and doctors in the region.

“We want to bring technology to the health centers…imagine if you want to speak to a doctor in Georgetown or you need to speak to a specialist …and the specialist happens to be in Barbados, we can arrange in advance for you to sit right here in Lethem and dial into that doctor who can look at that rash on your hand,” the Minister elaborated.

In the area of entrepreneurship, Minister Hughes said that access to the internet will allow the residents to advertise their products and sell them online. She said connectivity changes lives, hence the administration’s thrust is to bring the internet to as many communities as possible.

Turning her attention to the students present at the meeting, Minister Hughes urged them to utilise the internet for more than messaging and social media interaction.

Five computers were donated to the St. Ignatius Secondary School, two of which will be used exclusively by the students for completion of their assignments and research.

Mayor of the town, Carlton Beckles inquired about the Fibre Optic Cable which Minister Hughes explained was badly laid and is broken at many points.

An assessment of the cable, she said revealed that it will be too costly to repair. The Minister noted that “the technology has changed and it makes no sense to fix something that is broken in so many places…we are looking to see how we can get a new cable in.”

With the passage of the Telecommunications Act, more companies can provide internet access in the town and surrounding villages.

The Public Telecommunications Ministry is presently in talks with a Brazilian company in this regard and is optimistic that in the next six months or less, the technical persons will have a clearer idea of the strategy that will be used to provide better internet access.

Floyd Levi, Chairman of the National Data Management Authority.
Floyd Levi, Chairman of the National Data Management Authority.

Chairman of the National Data Management Authority (NDMA) Floyd Levi responding to concerns raised about internet speed, explained to the residents and officials of the Regional Administration that the telephone companies are utilising satellite to provide internet access, which is the most costly way of doing so.

He said a better option would be fibre optic; however, that currently poses several challenges if laid underground due to the fact that the region floods frequently. A better option would be running the cable in the same manner as the telephone lines.

Levi said the NDMA will consider this option in partnership with other companies.

Microwave technology, the NDMA Chair said has been around for quite some time and has proven to be much more robust in providing internet.” There are vast improvements in microwave and we are encouraging Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) to come with microwave first to Lethem,” he said.

GTT, Levi said is looking to partner with government, which is cognisant of the challenges with the current internet speed. The intention is to lay the Microwave network from Linden (Region Ten) to Lethem.

Additionally, Mayor Beckles said a Chinese company has expressed interest in developing a solar farm in the town.

Source: Stacy Carmichael – DPI