Hon. Minister Catherine Hughes welcome remarks at CTU Caribbean ICT Roadshow 2018

MINISTRY OF PUBLIC TELECOMMUNICATIONS
&
CARIBBEAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS UNION
Caribbean ICT Roadshow 2018
July 9 to 14, 2018
Arthur Chung Conference Centre
Theme: “Harnessing the Power of Innovation: The Engine for ICT-Enabled Development”

Welcome

  • H.E. President David Granger
  • Fellow Ministers of the Government
  • Members of Parliament
  • Visiting Delegates of the CTU & FAO
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Country representatives of partnering nations
  • Heads and representatives of Public and Private sector agencies and businesses
  • Citizens of Guyana, especially persons living with disabilities
  • Visitors, members of the Media, Friends all …

Let me echo the sentiments of my colleagues and extend a warm welcome to you all on behalf of the Government and people of Guyana, especially to the 20+ presenters from the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and key regional organisations, who will be sharing their knowledge and expertise with us this week.

The CTU Roadshow, for many years, has been a staple on the regional calendar, and it has finally come to Guyana.

Long before President Obama launched his “Yes, we can” election campaign more than a decade ago, there was a lush, green paradise strategically positioned on South America’s North Coast. It is blessed with an abundance of lands and natural resources, and just about the right amount of people, who for two generations sang with pride one of their national songs with a line that goes like this … “Can we do it? Yes we can!!!”

That land is MY land, our Guyana, teeming with unrealized potential in every possible economic zone. But the hard question has been – Can we move forward as fast as we want to go, merging our traditional economy with our new industries? Could we think outside the box so that we can finally transform Guyana for the benefit of all her citizens?

Again I say, “Yes, we can”. I say that we ARE moving forward with increasing use of Information Communications Technologies. Yes we are!

Ladies and gentlemen, this week we will participate in an exciting array of quality presentations on:-

  • E- Agriculture
  • New financial payment systems
  • A lot about ICT’s for persons with disabilities
  • The development and use of apps that will make our lives easier
  • With glimpses into the technological trends of the future
  • And all of Friday dedicated to our young Guyanese who are the drivers of this new revolution

And it is not just happening only in Georgetown. On Wednesday we take the Roadshow to Annai in the Rupununi, and on Saturday to the Corentyne in Berbice.

I can tell you that countries around the world, e.g. Estonia and Singapore that have harnessed the full potential of ICTs, have attained significant social and economic growth, and they are rapidly transforming into full knowledge-based economies.

Globally, ICT-led economies have created whole new avenues for new jobs and for human development. ICT economies mean higher levels of production and productivity; ICT services translate into increased incomes, and new opportunities for increased trade. Extensive application of information technologies also create opportunities for personal and business wealth, ultimately alleviating poverty.

Continuously we are shown how ICT sectors in other countries have bolstered human development, social and economic growth. In the Caribbean region, the past two decades has been a period which has seen enormous spread in the use of mobile phones, personal computers, tablets and the Internet in general.

The past 2 decades have witnessed dramatic expansion in the number and range of telecommunications and broadcast media providers, and in the use of computer apps and programmes in businesses, schools and households.

The Government of Guyana, on the wise advice of President Granger, took the decision in 2015 to get Guyana caught up with the digital revolution going on all around us. We got going approximately 2.5 years ago and have already made some commendable strides.

We are today refining the National ICT Policy Framework which, at the macroeconomic level, seeks to:-

  • Facilitate sustained economic growth and poverty reduction
  • Promote social justice and equity
  • Empower youths and our disadvantaged groups
  • Stimulate investment and encourage innovations in ICTs
  • Achieve universal access to the Internet

CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS

These, of course, are lofty goals but we are determined to uphold them and deliver. We recognize, however, that like every other policy initiative, there are going to be challenges. For us, the biggest tasks are building modern ICT infrastructure, writing new, or modernizing our current legislations, and re-writing our educational curricula and delivering 21st Century education to our increasingly curious young generations.

This approach also provides faster, more efficient and more convenient public services to our citizens. It includes providing online learning and telemedicine everywhere, from the coastland to the hinterland. We’re talking about smart classrooms and smart hospitals that are already coming into being. Very soon we will complete the blueprint for a technologically competent, safer city!

It all begins with training, for the people who are becoming the experts in the ICT field, and for every single citizen to become at the minimum, computer literate.

In all of my experience (20 years) as a Media professional, I have learnt that the best made plans would not work without stakeholder buy-in. In this case, I’m talking about the public sector, the private sector, civil society, Academia as well as our citizens who toil every day in and outside their communities to make their lives better.

This is the over-lying reason for this Roadshow – to spread the gospel that says it is only with the development and injection of Information Communication Technologies that:-

  1. Our children will be sufficiently educated to hold their own in the world of work that they will emerge into in a few years
  2. Guyana’s medical systems and networks will be able to deliver excellent health 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
  4. Will improve efficiency in government and in commerce
  5. Our citizens who are differently abled would succeed in their ambitions to learn Coding, write computer programmes, develop prosthetic limbs, or find cures for tropical diseases …

Guyana already has an impressive array of local ICT talent, of new Start-up businesses, and social development organizations such as the group that has developed an app to allow abused men, women and children to report their abuse and be rescued.

A NEW GUYANA

I too have a dream, one that is close to being realized. I want to see a private business sector that has fully embraced the use of technology, for their inventory and supplies management, their Accounting, their business forecasts based on product trends in CARICOM and European markets; and for their Human Resources.

I want to see a public sector with people who think outside the box, including the employment of persons who are visually or hearing impaired.

I would like to see our small to large scale business owners hire our young, talented and qualified Guyanese ICT entrepreneurs who can deliver the same level of service and products as people hired from overseas.

So I do look forward to a most enlightening, highly educational week for our farmers, for our ICT techs who are just starting out, for our educators, healthcare and other service providers.

I do truly believe that with the increased use of ICTs will we truly innovate and transform Guyana. Yes we can!!!

Thank You

Catherine A. Hughes MP