…as 100 ICT hubs to be operationalised in hinterland
Some 200 communities and almost 100,000 residents will benefit from the Hinterland Poor Remote Communities (HPRC) internet connectivity project when it is rolled out within the first quarter of 2023.
Divulging information on the HPRC project was Prime Minister Mark Phillips, during day five of the budget debates. He explained that the project is on track to operationalise 100 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) hubs.
According to the Prime Minister, 70 ICT Managers and 25 solar technicians will be trained this year, so that they can provide services to the project. When it comes to the project’s range, Phillips said that over 98,000 residents would benefit in 200 communities.
“I wish to remind that the HPRC was conceptualised by a previous PPP/C Government. From then to now, 100 ICT hubs on track to be operationalised by January 2023, equipped with 20 laptops, scanners and printers, 32-inch televisions, surge protectors, security locks… installation of 75 photovoltaic systems, of 15 250-watt solar panels, digital inverters, batteries,” Phillips said.
Phillips was also critical of the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government, saying that the project languished under them. He noted that despite former Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes lauding her Government’s signing of the US$17.1 million agreement to commence the project, it was the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) who had to advance it.
“When I assumed responsibility for public telecommunication and ICT, I summoned the project manager and asked for a status update on this project. I was told that the equipment was in the country and it was stored in some containers, in the parking lot of a certain hotel. I asked to visit the parking lot to see the equipment.”
“And lo and behold the project manager moved all the equipment to a hurriedly rented bond in Diamond, a Chinese shop converted to a bond overnight. Nothing was done. You signed the document, the money was made available, the equipment was bought and placed in the bond after being stored in containers,” the Prime Minister further said.
When Budget 2023 was presented by Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance Dr Ashni Singh, he had identified that some $500 million was allocated to further advance the expansion of ICT facilities in the hinterland.
Dr Singh further explained that the deployment of Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) equipment, which is used to transmit data, voice, and video signals over a satellite communication system, is now providing internet service to over 60,000 residents in 161 hinterland communities.
Moreover, Dr Singh pointed out that 93 communities benefitted from Government funding for the establishment of ICT hubs. In addition, another 107 communities are expected to benefit from this initiative in 2023.
“The 93 beneficiaries would have also seen the construction and equipping of ICT hubs in their villages, of which 72 are operational and the remainder slated to be completed in the first quarter of 2023,” Dr Singh said.
The PPP/C Government has said it is aiming to provide 100 per cent ICT, specifically internet access, across Guyana by 2025. It has pointed out that the increase in ICT access throughout Guyana can be tied to the PPP/C Government’s bold decision to liberalise the telecommunications sector soon after they entered office in 2020.
In October 2020, Prime Minister Phillips, who is the subject Minister with responsibility for Telecommunications, announced that Government had issued commencement orders, fully bringing into force the Telecommunications Act 2016 (the “Act”) and the Public Utilities Commission Act 2016. This was done less than three months after the PPP Government took office.