MoPT Half Year Review 2018

INTRO
The first 6 to 8 months of 2018 have been very rewarding for Guyana, and the Ministry of Public Telecommunications has already achieved better than 60 percent of our Work Plan. As we started out in 2016, we were fully aware that the task to get Guyana into position to reap real, down-on-the-streets benefits from our oil and gas industry was going to be an uphill one. We had to get our citizens to buy-in to the fact that they have to be properly trained first, and they have to be very familiar with ICT’s.

**I have to say that this particular benchmark was the easiest to achieve. Our citizens didn’t need any convincing. They knew just as we knew, that they have to learn to work with technology … and they have embraced it. Our children have taken to ICT like ducks to water, and they can’t seem to get enough of it.

We still have a long way to go, but we’re getting there with hard work and tremendous support from citizens, from society and the business community. The business community though, is waiting impatiently for the end of our negotiations with GTT. Local investors, foreign investors and the average man-in-the-street are begging us to get this thing done so that they could offer other telecommunications services.

So the negotiations are continuing, and the timeline that was set for completion has not changed. We are still working towards finishing it by the end of 2018.
EDUCATION & TRAINING are our main focus this year
Our long term goal is to make EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN computer literate, at least at the basic level. We have completed an impressive array of training interventions in the first half of 2018, and the schedule for the rest of this year is hectic.
Our overall goal as we transform into a fully digitized nation, is to ensure that our citizens, business owners, children, students, professionals and our retirees become proficient with computer technologies. This includes the software that we use … or what is known as the FRONT END. We are also training our people for BACK-END operations, that is, the creation of new apps, programmes, and other software that will modernize our security, agriculture, import and export, manufacturing, engineering, transportation, energy, education, healthcare, services and, of course, social life.

So, it goes without saying that the crux of our work lies in EDUCATION. This is why we established a strong partnership with the Education Ministry from the inception. Throughout 2017 and in the first half of 2018, we cemented this relationship and it is working out very well, especially for our children and youths – from pre-kindergarten to post university. We are working in close collaboration with the:

  • National Center for Education Research (NCERD)
  • The University of Guyana
  • The Cyril Potter College of Education (teachers training college)
  • The Carnegie School of Home Economics
  • The vocational technical institutes in Georgetown (GTI); Linden (LTI); Essequibo (ETI); Berbice (NATI) and with others on the West Coast of Demerara and Berbice
  • Several Private Schools

Creating hotspots in Schools
From January to July, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications installed wi-fi and satellite equipment for 175 Primary schools, and this project is not yet finished.
– We had spent the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017 installing Wi-fi connections in 151 Secondary Schools and technical institutes around the country, including the Carnegie School of Home Economics and several private schools in Regions 4, 5, 6 and 10.
We continue to lend technical support to the University of Guyana’s on-going campuses connectivity programme.
– Out of the total number of Community ICT hubs that have been officially commissioned, 35 were put into operation between January and June of this year. These included Yakusari and Baracara villages in Berbice, and Victory Valley in Linden.

Training
As I said earlier, this year’s focus is on ICT training of:-

  • Our children
  • Youths
  • Professionals wishing to add ICTs to their skill base
  • Retirees who wish to be re-skilled

It is turning out to be an inspired idea to utilize the Community ICT hubs where Government has placed computers, to conduct training programmes for community residents who include children, farmers, young men and women, home makers, retired teachers, millers …
This year MOPT either organized or lent our expertise to many computer literacy training programmes at these ICT hubs, e.g. in Cummings Park Sophia, and at Union/Trafalgar in Berbice. Several Management Committees of the hubs have organized their own training programmes, and others ask us for help.

– But on our training schedule was the Linden Technical Institute. We co-ordinated a 12-week training programme for a community development women’s group. In February they had asked us to conduct a Basic Computer literacy training (Level I) course. When they received their certificates in May, they asked for more, so now they are learning Computer Coding and programming on another 12-week schedule.

– From January to present, we also co-ordinated comprehensive training programmes for the residents of 2 children’s homes:-

  1. Level 1 Computer Literacy (November ‘17 – April ’18) for 14 girls who live at the Ruimveldt Children’s Home in Georgetow. One of these students continued into the 12-week Guyanese Girls Code training course, and 4 others went on to intermediate level training
  2. Children who are wards of the state, living in the ‘Save R Kids’ home at Caledonia, West Coast, Demerara. They also received Level I Basic training mostly to familiarise them with computers, to teach them to surf the Internet, and to write and send emails

Our Innovation and Industry Unit also spearheaded a 12-week Computer Literacy programme for young people in Lodge and surrounding areas. This course will close by the end of August. It is a collaboration between this Ministry and the “Community, Family and Youth Resilience Programme” run by USAID for at-risk youths in Guyana. That programme is called Creative Associated International.

USAID works in low-income communities to provide free after-school educational, sports and other types of activities. Their and OUR objectives are two-fold:-

  1. Provide young people with relevant skills that will lead to employment
  2. Identify those with the aptitude to move ahead to advanced computer courses.

Vreed-en Hoop Bright Stars (Phase II)
A group of 20 pre-teens and teenagers from Vreed-en-Hoop and areas along the West Bank and West Coast also completed a 12-week literacy programme in the second quarter. We collaborated with renowned computer technology trainers, Arti and Jairam Hirai, to run the first Basic level after school programme. That first course ended in May.
The high performing students from this group, along with the high achievers from training programmes in East Ruimveldt are now doing Intermediate Level training in web design and web development on Saturdays. MOPT provides transportation to and from their classes.

Guyanese Girl Code
In April, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications began a 12-week training programme for about 56 young ladies between the ages of 11 and 15, to teach them the Basics of writing Computer Code. Put simply, before anyone could begin to create an app, they first have to learn Coding and Programming.

When we advertised for participants, we had one venue, NCERD, and we had catered for about 20 participants. Within one week after the first ad appeared, the register of applicants was overflowing, so, we pulled in our faithful training partner, the University of Guyana’s Computer Science Department, and they provided the second venue on campus.

This course was a tremendous success. It acted as encouragement for the 3 Summer Code Camps in July and August for boys and girls. The boys took full advantage of these Code camps, and we will continue to encourage our young girls to pursue any of the many disciplines in the field. It includes:

  • Website design
  • Graphic design
  • App development
  • Gaming and animation

We are also encouraging female students to join STEM and STEAM clubs at school.

Sophia Community ICT Hub Management Team
The members of the Management teams of the Community ICT hub in Cummings Park, Sophia also received Basic Computer Literacy Level (I) training in the second quarter of this year. This entire community in Sophia is receiving tremendous assistance from the USAID’s Creative Associated International programme. The residents are very enthusiastic about the assistance they are receiving from the USAID, this Ministry, the Police Force and other organizations. The hub Managers intend to use their new knowledge to help other residents in the now developing community.

Girls in ICT
Every year on April 26, most developed and developing countries observe Girls in ICT Day with special programmes designed to help female students appreciate the importance of ICT, and to encourage them to pursue any of its many disciplines as they progress with their education.
This year, thru the NFMU, we organized an exhibition at Giftland Mall to showcase the ICT programmes and robots that students at Bygeval Secondary and other schools had created, some utilizing the Robotic Kits that were presented to the schools.

We also hosted a Tech Lab which was essentially a day of sensitization and training for girls as a precursor to a Hackathon that these students will participate in sometime in the foreseeable future.

Summer Code Camps
The Ministry’s Industry and Innovation Department took advantage of the availability of the children during the August holiday to strengthen and reinforce their knowledge of computing and computers.

We collaborated with the Office of Climate Change and the UG Computer Science Department, and ran 3 Code Camps in Berbice, Linden and Essequibo over 6 weeks at the:-

– University of Guyana’s Tain Campus in Berbice
– Linden Technical Institute
– Essequibo Technical Institute at Anna Regina

Interventions for Sensitization and Awareness
In June, the IDB collaborated with the Ministry to execute a forum on the importance of EXPONENTIAL TECHNOLOGIES in small economies like Guyana. The objective was to introduce Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Government Agencies and high level technical officers to this relatively new concept.
Exponential technologies are highly modernized services such as telemedicine, digital manufacturing, robotics and artificial intelligence that help to resolve the challenges that Governments encounter in developing economies and societies.

MoPT/CTU ROADSHOW
The Caribbean Telecommunication Union (CTU) came to Guyana in July and MoPT was the host of the CTU’s 24th Caribbean ICT Roadshow. The one-week event as the name suggests, was a broad outreach to the public to demonstrate that development will only happen in this digital age with the use of Information Communication Technologies. In our context, development means that:-

  1. Our children will be sufficiently educated to hold their own in the world of work that they will step into in a few years
  2. Guyana’s medical systems and networks will be able to deliver excellent health care and services to all citizens
  3. All of our citizens will have FREE access to the internet through the Community ICT hubs that Government has equipped with wi-fi equipment, computers, and knowledge
  4. The efficiency of public and government services will get better and better
  5. Farmers would be introduced to IT technologies to boost crop growing techniques and yields
  6. Our citizens who are differently-abled will be catered for, and would be able to participate in the changes happening around them

The 2018 Roadshow brought a very valuable component – Agriculture – that we took on the road to Annai in the Rupununi, and to the Corentyne. We met with farmers and the CTU’s agriculture experts showed them new methods of testing soil and crops that save time, effort and money … all utilizing technologies.
It was a huge success.

CONCLUSION
We are in the 8th month of 2018 and by and large, this Ministry has already achieved more than 60% of our annual activity schedule. At last we are clear to begin the five-year ICT Access and eServices project for Hinterland, Poor and Remote communities. The Board of Directors will have their first meeting shortly to approve the first year’s Work Plan, and in the interim, the first shipment of materials will arrive in Port Georgetown. This is a USD 17M project funded by the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF).

I have to say that we are well on the way to modernizing our economy and our society so we could reap the most benefits from the new technologies that need to be applied to every productive and services sector. These benefits will multiply for our people when our entire population is computer literate.