The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 30 November, 2017 signed the approved Project Document for the ICT Access and e-Services for Hinterland, Poor and Remote Communities project that will be executed by the National Data Management Authority (NDMA). Signing on behalf of the Government of the Co-operative of Guyana (GCRG) were Hon. Winston Jordan and Hon. Catherine Hughes, Ministers of Finance and Telecommunications, respectively.
Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy emphasizes the fostering of sustainable development in the hinterland regions and a key component in achieving such outcome is the linking of public services and information flows to the deployment and use of new Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). It is against this backdrop that the ICT Access and e-Services project will be executed over a five-year period beginning on 1 December 2017. The USD17M project is being funded by the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF).
The project has four main outputs which seek to strengthen Guyana’s E-government policy environment and legislation with respect to Hinterland, Poor and Remote (HPR) communities and ensure that these citizens have increased access to Public e-services and information and training to build their capacity to use ICTs.
In her remarks at the signing ceremony, Minister Hughes said, “For far too long the digital divide between these areas and the Coastland has been real. With this project, we are about to change those circumstances and start the transformation of our people in these areas.”
Echoing similar sentiments, UNDP Resident Representative, Mikiko Tanaka, applauded the GCRG and the Kingdom of Norway for their cooperation and for the confidence in UNDP being a partner entity for GRIF and for this project. She quoted former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan who had famously said, “Knowledge is power, Information is Liberating”, and explained that she looks forward to learning relevant lessons applicable for delivering GRIF programmes in the hinterland areas, where conditions such as lack of access to ICTs pose broad challenges that this project is trying to address.
The GCRG sees ICT as a critical pillar that can improve the quality of life of all its citizens. A whole-of-government approach has been adopted to modernize the public sector through the strategic deployment of new technologies to foster the delivery of public services across the nation, particularly the HPR communities, residents of which could gain the most from access to ICTs and critical government services. The government is simultaneously refining a national ICT strategy that is expected to be revealed in Q1 2018.
As a precursor to this HPRC project, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, working in close collaboration with UNDP, completed a comprehensive Baseline and Needs Assessment which had identified the HPR communities. The study included field visits and direct interaction with target communities, which have provided deep insights into the core issues these communities are facing as well as the likely technologies and business models that could bring and sustain the services and information that the residents currently lack.
While ICTs play a central role in the whole process, the ultimate goal of the project is to enhance the sustainable human development of HPR communities while promoting the development of a national green economy.
Photo: L-R: Hon. Catherine Hughes, Minister of Telecommunications; Hon. Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance, and UNDP Resident Representative, Mikiko Tanka after the signing.