Guyana only Caribbean nation without digital signature services law – IDB

With countries in the Caribbean digitalising services in Government offices to reduce visits and the use of paper copies, Guyana is the only country that is lagging behind in the region. In fact, it is the only country thus far without legislation in place to authenticate such.
This is according to a 2019 report by the Inter-American Development Bank: “Wait No More: Citizens, Red Tape and Digital Government”.
With digital signature on frequently used platforms, applicants and other stakeholders can sign documents online, eliminating the need to submit a hardcopy. Without this feature, like the system which currently exists in Guyana, citizens are required to make a visit to finalise their transactions.
“Another key platform service is the digital signature, which enables applicants to sign documents or forms online without having to submit a physical copy, and thereby potentially reduces the number of visits to a Government office. Without the digital signature, there are many Government transactions that – despite being digitised in everything but the signature – still require an in-person visit to comply with this requirement.”
In the Latin America and Caribbean region, 25 countries have implemented laws for the validity of digital signature. Guyana is the only one which ‘lacks’ this regulation.
The report states that with respect to regulation, there has been significant progress in the LAC region in that 25 of 26 countries have a law establishing the legal validity of the digital signature. It added that only Guyana lacks such a law. “However, having a legal framework does not necessarily mean that there is a digital signature in place that can be used by all citizens and that is accepted by all private and public institutions,” the published report highlighted.
Meanwhile, as it relates to Government websites, countries are enabling technology and customising their ‘style guide’ for easier access. It was indicated that having a similar format on every Government agency page creates a uniformed setting and allows for easier navigation. More importantly, it helps persons to identify its authenticity. While neighbouring countries have completed or started this process, Guyana has not initiated any efforts to do so.
“A style guide – a tool that offers guidelines to ensure that Government websites share a single format – helps to avoid these problems. The region has made substantial progress on this front: only 3 out of 25 countries lack a style guide or similar tool. In the Caribbean, The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname report currently having a guide, Jamaica and Barbados report that it is in process, and Guyana does not have one. The trend, however, is increasingly moving towards having a unique Government portal to reduce transaction costs for citizens of accessing multiple websites,” the IDB concluded.
The idea of the report was to focus on various Caribbean countries and the procedure involved in Government transactions such as: requesting a birth certificate, registering property or establishing a business. It specifically noted that “efficient Government transactions enhance the business climate, citizen perception of Government, and access to crucial public programmes and services”.
However, it was revealed in the document that Guyana headed the list for paying bribes to access Government services. The document specifically identified sectors where this practice is common, and the reasons why approximately 27 per cent of the population choose to give bribes instead of going through the process.