Moving forward in the computer age By Abigail Kippins
Guyana Chronicle
January 20, 2002

Students who leave school with a strong background in information technology, combined with either science or business, will be most `marketable’.

These students … will command the largest salaries and be the most influential in the job market, since they will be equipped with the skills, knowledge, certifications, and confidence to shape the future.
THE reliance on computer technology by businesses and industries is on the increase worldwide.

And in Guyana, evidence of efforts to keep apace with this development is obvious with the emergence and expansion of several small Internet Service Providers, a number of commercial telecenters, and internationally recognised computer schools that have recognised the growing need within the employment sector for persons qualified to offer support with information technology.

More and more persons are surfing the net, and the increasing traffic has begun to affect the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) which recently complained about the myriad of local networks utilising a massive volume of dial-up minutes.

With the boom in the industry comes an increase in computer sales and persons purchasing computers can get the training and advice of experts in the field who are available locally. The country also has businesses equipped to deal with computer repairs and there are a number of places offering computer networking, software, and web design among other services.

“What is happening is that the world is becoming, or is already computerised. Computer technology is used in every sector - for international trading, the general day-to-day operations of most organisations, for transmitting information, for everything…,” one expert in the field of computer technology said.

He is convinced that persons lacking knowledge in this field will find themselves out of touch with universal issues and will definitely encounter problems in the job market.

The number of local organisations turning to computer use is also on the increase, and these are demanding persons qualified in this discipline.

One of Guyana’s leading computer centres, Global Technology, has noted that any company employing individuals qualified in the field of information technology would attain faster response time, increased productivity, cheaper labour, lower maintenance costs and increased system security - factors, which it pointed out, are critical to every business.

Global Technology is convinced that students who leave school with a strong background in information technology, combined with either science or business, will be most “marketable”.

These students, the administrators are convinced, will command the largest salaries and be the most influential in the job market, since they will be equipped with the skills, knowledge, certifications, and confidence to shape the future.

The institution is therefore offering a new progressive information technology programme - CXC Information Technology.

It is the view of the administrators that this is a wonderful well-respected certification for all students worldwide to have, as it is a very comprehensive course and covers technology material that is relevant to the job market today and in the future.

Recognising the necessity of information technology to the social and economic advancement of Guyana, President Bharrat Jagdeo has given the commitment that all schools will be equipped to teach and train both students and teachers in this capacity.

He said the government’s aim is to computerise all the country’s primary and secondary schools in three to five years.

Several schools have started training students in the use of the computer, and under the Secondary School Reform Programme (SSRP), schools are being equipped with computer labs and the requisite facilities to further training in this field.

But many question whether Guyana is really ready for the rapid advancement in the fields of information and computer technology, which has already shaped the international trading community.

They argue that several government ministries and other organisations are yet to be equipped with computers. Members of staff are still toiling with the old record files and the typewriter, and many organisations are lagging behind in their data collection, restoration and modification. Trained personnel in information technology also encounter problems getting appropriate jobs with their qualifications.

But according to some government officials, efforts are being made to increase the use of information and communications technology in the private and public sectors as they referred to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which recently approved US$18.5M for an information and communications technology project. This project is to be executed by a new unit within the office of the President - the Information and Communications Technology Unit (ICTU).

Still to be realised, the ICTU has been identified as a national priority by the government and is viewed as a pivotal tool to improve governance, accountability and transparency, generate employment, develop human potential, and strengthen national unity.

The proposed project, estimated to cost US$22.5M, is expected to provide resources to strengthen the recently created ICTU, modify the legal/regulatory framework to facilitate E-transactions and enhance Guyana’s attractiveness as a site for E-service exports, increase public sector efficiency and transparency, and facilitate citizens’ access - especially for the poor - to needed public services by making them available online.

Low-income individuals will be able to gain access to the opportunities for communicating, learning and identifying employment opportunities through the Internet, and E-service exports will be promoted to encourage economic diversification and to create new jobs, particularly for the young, officials said.

In an interview with the Chronicle, Academic Administrator of Global Technology, Ms. Atekah Hack, though bemoaning the limited opportunities available in Guyana for those qualified in the field, outlined a number of possible careers for persons armed with qualifications in the information technology field.

She said for Health Science students/graduates who eye careers as Doctors, Medical Technicians, Product Managers - Biotech, Quality Control Microbiologists, Respiratory Therapists, Health Services Administrators and Managers, Collections Executives, Accountants, Project Coordinators, Product Development Managers to name a few, useful technology skills to pursue include Windows 2000 Professional, Word Processing/Word 2000 (MOUS), Spreadsheets/Excel 2000 (MOUS) PowerPoint 2000 (MOUS), Access 2000 (MOUS), among others.

Education students with these skills can pursue administrative jobs as Administrators and Managers, Collections Executives, Advertisers and Salespersons, Pricing Analysts, Accountants, Product Development Managers, Safety Directors, Plant Managers, Directors of Environmental Programmes, Human Resources Managers and a wide range of other positions in administration, she said.

Those skills, along with others in Web Development, Microsoft Certifies Systems Engineer, CompTIA Certifications, and Computer Programmer would benefit Natural Science students with career choices ranging from Database Analyst, Webmasters, Hardware Engineer, Technician, Programmer Analyst, Software Engineer, JAVA Developers, SQL Developers, Macromedia Director Developer, Systems Engineer among others.

Such skills will also benefit Agriculture students with an interest in Agriculture and Forestry. Possible careers include Administrative and Management, Collections Executive, Advertising and Sales, Training Coordinator, Tech Assistant, Plant Manager, Landscape Working Supervisor, Soil Scientist, Lead Animal Care Specialist.

Social Science students pursuing careers as Lawyers, Bank Directors, Economic Advisors, Accountants, Payroll Accountants, Business Managers, Financial Systems Analysts, would also benefit from having skills in the areas mentioned.

Hack said the centre, which is directly linked with Microsoft overseas, also trains personnel of various companies and caters for everyone. Classes are even filled with adults, some of whom are involved in the courses offered to the lower forms.

She said the school has highly qualified teachers who are always willing to help students.

Global Technology has plans to open a full time school in September of this year to cater for the growing demand.

Mr. Lancelot Khan, Network Manager of Netcom, like Ms Hack, alluded to the limited opportunities available here for those qualified in the field, and also noted that many leave the country due to the meagre salaries they receive here following training.

He reiterated that jobs have to be created to meet the demands of the growing number of persons getting the relevant training in computer technology.

‘Netcom Computer City’, recognised as a Total Solutions Provider, offers services in point of sales solutions, networking solutions, web page design, software training, service and maintenance contracts, computerisation and consultancy, and custom-design software development among others.

It installs and supports structured cabling and fibre optic technologies catering for the growing number of organisations requesting interconnections to share resources and information. Wireless applications are also a part of the service provided.

It also provides a rental service of most computer-related equipment for short periods of time to organisations requiring personal computers, laptops and printers for training sessions and seminars.

Netcom says its objective is to be a competent, reliable and efficient team of Information Technology team professionals who would deliver superior services and solutions at an internationally recognised level.

It was established in 1999 by a group of University of Guyana Computer Science students.

Khan said since then, the company, located at Dennis Street, Campbellville, Georgetown, has managed to grow from a service-oriented company to one that offers modern solutions for corporate and home-users and students.

He said the founders had interest in the business years before and though they could have all left the country upon completion of their training, they want to see things happen in Guyana and decided to make a contribution.

He said Netcom’s staff consists of about 30 persons but varies since it offers students of the Guyana Technical Institute and the University of Guyana part-time employment. It said it gives students the opportunity to gain the experience necessary in the relevant fields of study and will contribute to their educational development.

Like other organisations offering computer services, Khan said the public response is good as an increasing number of persons are realising the importance of computer literacy.

According to Education Minister, Mr. Henry Jeffrey, it has been realised that computer information technology has a lot to offer in Guyana and the world at large.

He noted that the education sector cannot do without it and that the government will continue making strides to computerise schools across the country in the coming years.

He pointed out that several schools are already attempting to get computers through their own efforts.

He said people have realised that they have to know about computers, which offer many advantages in every sector.

Even those who have left school have realised the demand for persons qualified to offer support with information technology and have committed themselves to acquiring the necessary training.

“The world is moving in the direction of electronic technology. Every facet of life is affected and impacted on by the computer and electronics on the whole,” a computer science student of the University of Guyana noted.

She said if a person is to be effectively equipped to deal with work and life in general, then he/she has to acquaint himself/herself with the use of the computer.

“Computer technology is rapidly advancing at a rate that (can be described as) … incredible. Therefore, to successfully grapple with the challenges and the demands of modern society, one has no option but to become immersed and trained in the use of information technology…,” she stated.