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CTU holds Youth ICT Day at Internet Week Guyana

By Gerard Best

Around the world, digital natives integrate technology into their lives seamlessly, often in ways that are counterintuitive to other generations.

But in the Caribbean, governments are discovering ways to bridge that digital divide, through strategic partnerships with organisations like the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG).

The government of Guyana recently held an Internet Week, coordinated by the CTU and CaribNOG, alongside several international Internet bodies including the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Latin America and the Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC).

Catherine Hughes, Guyana’s Minister of Public Telecommunications, closed the five-day event with a two-hour town hall meeting with students. More than 300 from secondary schools around the country took part in the all-day event.

Lance Hinds, Special Advisor to the Minister, who opened the meeting, explained the day’s simple agenda: to empower young people to stay safe online while getting the most out of Internet technology.

The global importance of cyber safety translated into personal terms by Michelle Garcia, Communications Specialist with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, who spoke frankly about how to handle some of the very real dangers lurking around heavily frequented websites and popular social apps. Complementing Garcia’s message, Lydia Moise (CTU) told the young people that told that the power is in their hands to make the best use of the available technology.

To that point, a slate of young business people were on hand to  demonstrate the potential of the digital economy. Rowen Willabus of Intellect Storm, Anushka Sonai of Spang Makandra, and Julius Simon of FarmersMarket.gy, took part in a panel of entrepreneurs, moderated by Claire Craig, IT Manager at The University of the West Indies.

Youth day also included demonstrations of app being developed by  software start-ups owned and run by young programmers and designers. Version 75 presented an app to enable Guyanese to report non-life threatening and non-critical problems like potholes, inoperative traffic lights, leaking pipes and so on to the relevant authorities. This app is not intended for emergency situations but to ensure less serious problems are reported and that report is recorded and stored for future review.  

Intellect Storm presented an online business directory and intends for the directory to be linked to an online payment app which users will be able to use to make payments for the services of businesses listed in its directory. They also announced that they will be bringing a food ordering app to the local Guyanese market in the near future.

The success of the day was most evident not just in the formal agenda but in its aftermath. Long after the formal close, students lingered in the hall, accosting various panelists with follow-up inquiries, taking selfies with the smiling Minister, and even introducing themselves to some of the international experts on hand to field their questions.

The Youth Day was the virtual exclamation at the end of a memorable Internet Week Guyana. Now the work continues to  deliver on the potential an convert promise into reality.