Govt remains mindful of cybersecurity threats with increased ICT reliance – PM

…$US17.4M to improve internet in 200 communities

Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips on Monday told members of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO) that the Government has noted the importance of cybersecurity and remains mindful of the security implications of increased reliance on Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) in many facets of life. These, he said, include implications for the confidentiality of personal communications, integrity in key systems such as banking as well as key infrastructure where the technology is enabled.

Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips delivering the feature address at the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations’ AGM and mini-exhibition

“Here, too, we look to operators and ICT firms to make suitable investments in securing data in the interest of our citizens. Operators must also look to partner with governments and regulators to develop protocols on how to coordinate responses to cybersecurity incidents,” Phillips told members of CANTO.
During the virtual meeting, the Prime Minister, who delivered the feature address at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and mini-exhibition, also informed that the Government would be investing US$17.4 million to improve the ICT capabilities of more than 200 communities in Guyana.
He underscored the importance of technology in overhauling the traditional ways in which the region has conducted business.
“Prior to 2020, the possibilities of Information and Communication Technologies for transforming our economies were already evident. Now, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a pressing imperative to ensure the widespread rollout and adoption of ICTs. Undisputedly, such technologies are instrumental to our ability to respond to the pandemic,” the Prime Minister is quoted as saying in a Department of Public Information report.
He emphasised that ICTs are enabling remote access to work and school for citizens and have also forced the country to break through barriers that have previously prevented the delivery of more Government services online.
“Our Government has continuously given our commitment to ensuring equitable development for residents in hinterland communities and chief among those priorities include access to ICTs. US$17.4 million has been earmarked for improving internet connectivity to 200 communities throughout Guyana which will be rolled out this year. 35,000 households in those communities will also be presented with an upgrade in solar panels to power their homes.”
The Prime Minister said that Guyana is not lost on the benefits of ICTs, and recognises their immense capabilities. As a result, the country welcomes available opportunities as it relates to advancing telecommunications, especially in the business sector.
It was along this thrust, he explained, that Guyana sought to deliver on the key promise of liberalisation of the telecommunications sector within a mere 64 days of assuming office. As a result, vast prospects for business investments within multiple industries have been created.
The liberalisation of the sector, Phillips explained, brings the country’s telecommunications industry in line with regional and global standards. He stressed that the Government is willing to work with all stakeholders to ensure that citizens have access to innovative and modern services.
“It was an important step given that the Caribbean region holds massive potential for growth in the telecoms sector, providing a considerably high contribution to the region’s Gross Domestic Product considering the markets in other Caribbean countries are relatively liberalised,” he added, while noting that CANTO can be a key partner to governments of the region.

Phillips said that Government is also interested in mobile telephones based on satellite technology that can sustainably serve the hinterland and remote populations.
He said that along with cybersecurity, focus is also on enhanced technology.
“As I consider the primary focus of this conference; its emphasis on innovation, in cybersecurity and how Caribbean operators are preparing for 5G and cloud services, I look at Guyana’s position and acknowledge that, while we are still to complete considerations relating to 5G assignments and rollouts, our country can still serve as a potential jurisdiction for the location of data centres. It is well-known that to successfully execute the power of 5G, data will need to flow quickly from the end-user to the data centre (and vice versa). As such, more data centres will be needed to host and stream data at significantly higher speeds, volumes, and lower latencies,” the Prime Minister is quoted as saying.
He stressed that the potential of 5G and its benefits are fascinating and can take technology to “new heights” beyond just smartphones, and can be applied to multiple industries and high-tech devices such as self-driving cars, improved drone technology, smart factories, and even in bringing new service paradigms to healthcare.
As it relates to Guyana, the Prime Minister explained, the Government has delivered to the business environment through liberalisation and now looks to the Private Sector of the region – that is the membership of CANTO – to deliver with investment, jobs and affordable, innovative services for consumers; as well as a price relief for consumers, particularly amid the pandemic.
He said that on the regional scene, Caribbean Heads of Governments have called for the elimination of roaming charges in the region in pursuit of realising a true single market, and as a result, is looking forward to a dialogue with operators on how this can be sustainably realised.
He echoed the Secretary General’s previous sentiments that the region cannot progress without the collaboration of all stakeholders.