Creating a national
awareness of Internet

by Dr. Rovin Deodat
From Sunday Chronicle February 25, 1996

The INTERNET it seems is very much in fashion these days. There are those who sing its praises from the top of their voices, and others who, according to a recent newspaper headline, are crying the 'Internet blues' from the USA to China.

Today let us continue our discussion on more elementary but just as important considerahons - prerequisites for acquiring a link with the global Intemet.

We mentioned the very basic requirements last week - a computer, a modem, a telephone line as far as an individual is concemed. For the country as a whole, a more comprehensive approach and a conscious plan IS necessary.

In fact preparation for utilising Internet for such fields as education, health, agriculture and certainly, healthy sporting and leisure time activities, can activate national discussion, debate and even action on the part of govemmental and non-govemmental organisations.

To some extent, this has already started in Guyana with a Guyana Information Services (GIS) release on Intemet, then letters to the press and articles picked up from international news agencies on various concems about Intemet. This kind of public airing of the topic is a good start.

But the major difficulty is that the current debate involves and can be understood by only a very small fraction of our population (probably less than one per cent).

This is clearly inadequate from the point of view of public awareness and education, since potentially, Intemet can affect a large segment of Guyanese, positively or negatively. Our pieces on Intemet are really intended to provide some basic infommation on this new infommation technology as well as whet your appetite for more infommation, which the national media outlets ought to provide, through panel discussions, lectures to interested groups - including business, professional and community organisations, students in schools and decision makers in govemment and other agencies.

The onus for these kinds of public awareness initiatives is as much on private enterprise and non-govemmental agencies as it is on govemment efforts. Ideally, demonstrations on television using our local circumstances, individuals and companies. can be mounted to show not only how the Internet works, but some of the information products or content that can be obtained through it.

We should also have public discussions and debates on the controversial subject of local, regional or international regulations or control of the Internet. Do we need it? Is it practical even if we do? What about free speech, indecency, libel, copynght, privacy etc.? We also need to be aware of the research in this area both from overseas and in the CARICOM region; and initiatives currently in progress in Guyana, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) feasibility study.

In short, let us approach this new and important development in the field of information with knowledge and a balanced analysis of its usefulness for us in Guyana, given local conditions and circumstances.