– The Challenges
The Government of Guyana’s long term vision for ICTs in Guyana has continuously maintained the grounds for promoting technology as a solution that will enhance development. It is true that technology can be used for active participation at the micro levels or at the macro-levels of governance, but with new developments in technology this will give birth on a recurring baseline to new challenges and issues as digital economies emerge.
The digital divide is one such issue that former President Jagdeo advocated and the current administration is working to close the gaps as this will ensure that citizens can access the ICT highway in an unlimited fashion.
The rapid formation and operationalization of tele-centres and computer laboratories with wireless and/ or broadband connectivity, and with the most precious intervention by President Jagdeo in the “one lap-top per family programme” are key indicators necessary to bridge the digital divide by providing access to knowledge about technologies.
Unfortunately, even where computer facilities are readily available, the digital divide persists. Even in the world’s most wealthy countries, access to the latest and most beneficial technologies is limited for those in rural areas and people with disabilities.
There are many other issues to consider when talking about ICTs and their roles in people’s lives, beyond the digital divide and universal accessibility. The internet has created new and innovative ways for people to shape and share their identity. Take a look at the explosion of facebook, chatting windows and Youtube, the well designed platforms for people from different parts of the world to express themselves, whether in text format, videos and pictorial, it’s their freedom of choice with easy access.
However, to some people, the internet can appear to be a modern day “wild west,” or something to fear. The rise of online social networking, online shopping, e-commerce, tele-banking, B2B marketing and other online interactions and transactions that ask people to share a large amount of personal information and data have led to a number of risks that every internet user needs to bear in mind. The internet may seem to be uncontrolled; however, telecommunication companies and governments around the world own the infrastructure behind the internet, and different governments and companies are asserting that ownership in various ways. No sole entity controls the internet, which is making the concept of internet governance or the uniform application of rules a very complicated issue.
These are not the only observations to be made. In Guyana many advances in mobile media and technology have been made, creating a whole new world of possibilities. Our challenge is to figure out how to use technology – both the existing and the emerging – for good, and how to assure its access and use in the most democratic way possible.
The issue of regulation and standards will have to be linked with two broad governance issues where the first deals with how the Internet itself, a technologically complex global communication network, can be managed so it can continue to grow. There are several organizations, many of which are gathered under the umbrella of the Internet Society, which oversee the complicated task of balancing competing interests in the evolution of new technical standards
The other major issue is how to legally govern activities conducted on the Internet. This task remains the responsibility of the government of each nation that is connected to the Internet. The regulatory agenda must cover a wide range of activities: some related to the regulation of business transactions and securities trading; consumer protection (including the protection of minors); fairness in advertising (no monopoly); the protection of intellectual property; to name a few. These are just some of the areas in which governments globally will have to put high on their ICT agenda in the area of internet governance standards.
The global nature of the web greatly complicates effective governance. Transactions on the Internet can crisscross state and national borders without easy detection. Any legal regime that may be desired to govern web activity must deal with issues of compliance and enforcement in order to be implemented effectively.
It is hoped that governments will develop an Internet Governance Project (IGP) where selected group of academics induce expertise into practical action in the fields of global digital governance, Internet policy, and information and communication technology protocol so that high levels of regulatory dispensations can format the way the internet is being used for development and good causes.