E- Government initiatives for the year 2017 have been allocated $1.58 Billion, of which an estimated $114Million has been earmarked for the provision of public internet access at over 600 Government buildings across the country.
This was stated by Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes as she took to the floor on day three of the National Budget Debates in the National Assembly, today.
Minister Hughes said that the Public Internet Access Points (PIAPs) will increase the opportunities, and channels through which thousands of individuals will access online resources as part of Government’s aim to reduce the digital divide, and increase digital interaction with the Government.
The Minister said that, key to this initiative is the transformation of strategically located post offices into comfortable, refurbished Information Communications Technology (ICT) hubs which will provide opportunities for citizens to visit these hubs, to access the internet free of charge, to receive Government services.
Minister Hughes said that all post offices within reach of the E-Government Network, especially those located in digitally excluded communities such as Lethem, Linden, Bartica, Mahdia, Mabaruma, and Port Kaituma will become community ICT hubs.
An estimated $90Million will be used to provide (ICT) access to the hinterland, as well as poor and remote communities throughout Guyana. “We intend to expand the reach of Government services to the hinterland. Community ICT hubs and PIAPs will be established in Masakenari, Annai, Lethem, Waramadong, Paramakatoi, Aishalton, St. Cuthbert’s Mission, Linden, Bartica, Mahdia, Mabaruma, Port Kaituma, and Kwakwani, in addition to at least 24 more pilot communities across Guyana,” Minister Hughes said.
The Minister said that the aim of this initiative is to improve the livelihoods of persons in those regions, and to reduce the digital divide that exists between the coastland and hinterland. Minister Hughes said this will allow the Government to leverage local (indigenous) knowledge in the development of Guyana’s natural raw materials, and the promotion and marketing of local products.
Additionally, a further 30 pilot Community ICT hubs serving an estimated 60,000 residents, will be established in Regions 2 (Affiance, Onderneeming, Lima Sands), 3 (Leonora, Den Amstel, Parfaite Harmonie, Hague), 4 (Agricola, Mocha Arcadia, Enmore), 5 (Ithaca, Bath Settlement), and 6 (Whim, Fyrish, Baracara Skeldon). These regions are covered by the E-Government Network (E-GovNet), according to Minister Hughes.
Minister Hughes told the National Assembly that the next stage of expansion, will include communities in Regions One, Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten (Bamia, Block 22, Victory Valley, Cinderella City) will be considered; as well as other potential communities in the other regions.
“These hubs would improve residents’ access to information and services, increase knowledge and practices in traditional economic sectors, support education and learning for youths and adults, and build cohesion in communities. An estimated $30 Million has been allocated for these pilots, with the wider project expected to come on stream in the latter half of 2017,” the Minister said.
Minister Hughes pointed out that maintaining and expanding the E-GovNet is of critical importance to the Government. Approximately $435Million is allocated for this activity, which includes $70Million for the expansion of the network to Timehri, Amelia’s Ward, Diamond, and further afield; $50Million for ensuring the cyber security of Government’s network; and $275Million for the maintenance and technical support services required to ensure the continued functionality of the network.
A further $674Million has been allocated towards the provision of connectivity and internet access to the over 140 Government locations already connected to the E-GovNet; and the more than 600 Government locations planned for 2017.