Guyana Government wishes to bring back its failed fiber optic project. The telecommunications minister says a fund of $200M has been allotted to support the fiber optic project from the Government. The minister said that even though the deployment is currently stopped, efforts are on the way to revive the failed project of Guyana’s previous ruling PPP (People’s Progressive Party).
The minister added that two independent studies on the fiber optic project were commissioned by the new Government. The first study was a forensic audit that focused mainly on the financial operations and functioning of the eGovernance unit over the period January 1, 2012 to May and was done by Ram and McRae Chartered Accountants. The second audit was done on the Georgetown to Lethem fiber optic cable project which was done by a team of telecommunications specialists.
The audit reports were submitted to the Government for acceptance and approval by the audit firms on May 6, 2016 but it has not yet been accepted as final. The minister said the decision is yet to be taken on the fate of Georgetown to Lethem fiber optic project. She said that the Project is still under review. The Guyana Government wants to ensure transparency in every sphere of activities including the procurement and administration of the fiber optic project.
Almost around two years back, there were reports that Guyana’s e-government project has ‘collapsed’ due to the number of technical problems encountered in installing the fiber optic network. The project, which encompasses an overland fiber link to Brazil, a 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network for last mile access and fiber optic backbone network linking the towers, was launched in 2011. The project encountered numerous logistical and technical difficulties mainly due to lack of proper administration. The project has been dropped in between in limbo.
The project has already cost the Guyanese government millions of dollars, but is unusable in its current state and needed additional investment to achieve its original goals. The Brazil-Guyana link was almost 90 percent completed in June 2012 and a cross-border connection network was installed in November 2012. The network is still not operational. Similarly, the 54 towers have been built for the LTE network, but other problems have prevented the activation of the system
After the government abandoned the project, huge damage had been done to the installed cables by vandals looking to salvage copper. Damage to the fiber optic cables was done by careless installation crews as well. The project has also faced problems with contractors. The Government authorities was forced to fire its first batch of contractors due to the slow rate of progress, lack of the necessary equipment and shoddy standard of work and myriad of other logistical problems.
In the National Assembly, Hughes articulated on several occasions that the ICT sector and the knowledge management industries will be the ones that will have to be cornerstone of Guyana’s future. The telecommunication minister said that the Guyana Government intends to make a number of investments in the ICT sector. In order to expand broadband connectivity and the integration of Ministries, Government plans to invest $240M to resuscitate the troubled Fibre Optic Cable Project. A fund of around $140 million has been allocated to consolidate, monitor, maintain and extend the existing eGovernment Fiber optic and LTE Network around Georgetown and along the coast from Moleson Creek to Charity.
Guyana will spend a further $100 M to repair and upgrade the Georgetown–Linden Fiber optic network. The previous Government had abandoned the project after spending almost $1 billion. The current Government thinks there was a lack of feasibility study, poor planning and absence of effective project management and the use of inexperienced contractors are some of the major contributing factors that led to the failure of this project. The ministry of telecommunications wants to correct all these mistakes so that the people of Guyana, regardless of their socio-economic status or remoteness, will be digitally connected and socially included.