Digital Transformation Spotlight: Guyana

Digital Transformation is a term that has been used frequently in IT discussions

We live in an era where digital technologies are expanding exponentially, and digital transformation is reshaping the business landscape globally. Digital Transformation is a term that has been employed often in IT discussions during the last decade. This is especially true for Fortune 1000 companies in the developed world. However, there are still many places where this transformation has not yet taken root.

So, what does digital transformation precisely entail? In its simplest form, Digital transformation is taking manual, usually paper-based workflows, and digitizing them. Thereby, making them more robust and accessible. An example is electronically filing tax returns.

This form of digital transformation makes things simpler for the end-users. This way, the end-users or customers can comfortably finish their tax procedures from the solace of their homes and avoid going to the post office.

Additionally, this digital transformation is linking every person, community, and government agency within a nation. This is particularly transformative in countries where government services have had a more challenging time penetrating beyond urban areas. Also, with digitization, even the most remote parts of Guyana can be connected and fully integrated with its central city hubs, the Caribbean, and beyond.

In collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank, the Guyanese Government engaged the Estonian Government to help develop a “Digital Governance Roadmap for the Govt of Guyana”. Estonia is ranked first among 193 countries in the United Nations E-governance index and is considered the most advanced digital society globally. 

This Digital Roadmap Report focuses on evaluating existing legislation and implementing suggestions for eGovernment related legislative changes, electronic identification for all citizens, improving data quality and digitization of data, development for technological solutions for health, school, and police systems, planning and implementation of connectivity and broadband access and development of cybersecurity strategies.

In January 2021, Guyana had a population of 733.4 thousand, of which 294.3 thousand were internet users, i.e., internet penetration of 37.3% as opposed to 92.5% in the United Kingdom and 87.3% in the United States. Also, most African countries have an internet penetration of 55-60%. 

However, in Guyana, there are still many areas that are ripe for digital transformation. Presently, one of the most prominent roadblocks to growth and digital transformation is the people’s hesitation in switching from conventional methods to digital ones due to privacy concerns. Moreover, people still have a misconception about digital transformation that anything stored on a digital device is prone to undue exploitation.

Hence, the initial step in getting the public to embrace digitization or digital transformation is to build a sense of trust. People need to feel confident that their data is being used appropriately while being stored and shared securely. Once a positive digital mindset gets developed and individuals see how it benefits their lives, there will be no turning back.

Also, a digital economy can reduce Guyana’s dependency on external goods and services if they choose to become the innovators and developers of the Caribbean region. To accomplish this, all Guyanese in urban and rural areas require direct access to transformative technologies and digital information.

As David Granger rightly said, the modern world has educated children who study in smart classrooms with whiteboards and projectors and use tablets for taking and storing their notes.  This way, a professor can train two classrooms together– one in Karasabai in the Rupununi and the other one in Corriverton on the Corentyne, and this is what digitization is.

In addition, with digital transformation, a patient in Hopetown can transfer medical examination reports for analysis across long miles or consult with a specialist in Georgetown. Furthermore, with e-payments, you can shop at the grocery store with a tap on your phone and get take-out delivered to your doorstep within minutes.

Similarly, e-Governance eliminates the requirement to travel out of your hometown for accessing legal services, acquire passports, examine academic or medical records, register business, renew licenses, or file tax returns.

Apart from this, Guyana, is now progressing towards becoming a digital state. This digital state will apply Information and Communication Technology to add value to their manufacturing and service sectors and boost economic and digital transformation. This is especially important considering Guyana’s relatively recent entry into the Oil and Gas sector.

It will generate knowledge-based businesses, move the economy away from over-dependence on principal production, move manufacturing up the price chain to penetrate larger outside markets. Also, the digital transformation in Guyana can deploy Information and Communication Technology efficiently to foster competitiveness and productivity.

It is the implementation of technology that will promote innovation and eventually lead to economic growth. The digital state will then be capable of delivering quality public assistance across the nation.

This will additionally reduce the requirement for residents to move outside of their areas of residence to access various statutory services. They may not be able to examine their educational and medical records, register companies, and embark on business and investment enterprises in the years to come.

Moreover, the planned and in-progress developments in the Information and Communication Technology sector enable people to meet the digital divide between the hinterland and coast, Guyana, and the rest of the Caribbean.

This is because broadband access is getting rolled out to isolated rural areas to foster greater integration of the nation. Therefore, this expanded broadband access intends to present cost-competitive connectivity alternatives and to help to enhance access and the offering of public services.

Likewise, broadband access has spread to almost 116 government bureaus and departments, nine student hostels and dormitories, and three nursing establishments to enhance resident engagement and foster embodiment and social advancement. 

It will also encourage comprehensive incorporation and innovation to provide data services and digital industries compatible with the Green State Development Strategy.

Hence, we can say that this shift towards digital modes from traditional paper operations will make Guyanese daily lives easier and enable Guyana to widen its reach to explore new opportunities.

It will also make it more comfortable for people to access public services as the government facilitates investment, commerce, and trade and will help people take a step ahead in the direction of digital transformation.