The Ministry of Communities on Monday moved one step further in advancing its agenda in ensuring residents of outlying regions have efficient, adequate and affordable access to government services through electronic means.
The project is in its initial phases and is being conducted through the E-Governance Unit with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a Germany-based consulting company; Deutsche Telekom Group (Detecon).
Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan and Permanent Secretary Emil McGarrell met with UNDP’s Resident Coordinator, Khadija Musa and a team from the E-Governance Unit including Director of Project Management, Phillip Walcott and Detecon’s representative, Stephan Dieter.
The contracting firm is preparing to conduct needs assessment surveys in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine to gather information from residents on the best possible alternatives and solutions in bridging the gap in information communication technology (ICT).
Minister Bulkan noted that an initiative of this nature has the potential of making a huge impact in propelling government’s agenda for the delivery of much-needed services in outlying regions.
He expressed both pleasure and excitement that the project was moving apace and promised the ministry’s commitment in providing the relevant assistance.
The Minister of Communities further pointed out that since internet connectivity at the level of the RDCs is extremely limited or in some cases non-existent, the initiative would be of enormous and incalculable benefit.
“This will greatly assist us in the efficient delivery of services to communities. It will also help in the areas of monitoring, planning and supervision,” he related.
Minister Bulkan said the project comes at an opportune time as the administration is engaged in assessing its role in the functioning of regional administrations and municipalities.
“So that this will go a far way in assisting central government with the capacity building challenges and help equip us to discharge our responsibility and functions,” he said.
According to Minister Bulkan, central government is also committed to the process of decentralization and bestowing on communities the power of self-governance and autonomy.
Musa disclosed that after a careful and detailed procurement process, UNDP is confident that Detecon was the best selection; having the expertise to perform the required tasks.
The UNDP Coordinator said the international company, which has worked in several countries in South America, was chosen from among four other initial proposals that were submitted after being shortlisted from 14 expressions of interest.
Subject to technical review, the financial aspect of the project will then come on stream with initial funding provided by central government and the remaining phases being undertaken through the GRIF fund.
Walcott explained that the process of collecting the data is expected to be completed by the end of the year so that the infrastructural works of internet connectivity can commence as early as 2017.
“We want these communities to have internet since this is crucial in accessing the E-governance services. We will be working to put a number of E-government services online but if we have these services and the communities have no internet services then we really would not have achieved anything,” the Director stated.
Walcott disclosed that the E-Governance Unit will require the input and guidance of both the Ministries of Communities and Indigenous Affairs since the project cuts across both portfolios.
He added that the various Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) will be formally notified of the intended study to be conducted so that communities are aware and can make meaningful contributions.
The survey will poll a sampling of communities that best represent the interests of the general population of that particular region.
Dieter, during brief remarks, revealed that a marketing research team is expected in Guyana in a couple of weeks and will cover all 10 regions in the study.
The researchers are required to gather the data from the hinterland and rural regions which by nature of their location and geography prevent and limit access to technological services.
According to Dieter, the first phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of August after which the other phases will be implemented.
The achievement of internet connectivity in rural areas would translate into the direct provision of services to residents as a key pillar on which the decentralization of public service is envisaged.
The initiative will build scope in regions where municipalities were most recently identified namely; Lethem, Bartica, Mabaruma and the soon-to-be commissioned, Mahdia.