…Govt urged to liberate Guyanese of “digital constipation”Guyanese entrepreneurs will soon have the opportunity to access financing as a Guyana-born businessman and telecommunications expert, Mike Singh on Saturday launched a US$100 million venture capital fund at the 2018 Digital Wealth Creation Summit.Telkom Caribe Group Chairman and CEO Mike SinghSingh, who was one of the featured speakers at the event held at the Marriott, which saw the attendance of hundreds of persons, said that many brilliant ideas died because very often borrowers did not have the collateral to access loans.While declaring that sometimes banks “kill entrepreneurship”, Singh, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Telkom Caribe Group, a telecommunications company based in Miami, Florida, announced the setting up of this fund to the applause of a receptive audience of mostly young people.Singh, whose business has offices in Abu Dhabi and South Africa, was critical of Government’s efforts to promote and capitalise on the use of modern digital technology. He shared with the audience how surprised and shocked he was that almost the entire hinterland region was without Internet.The Indigenous people of Guyana account for 12 per cent of the total population, and they should demand from Government that they too are connected, he said. “If I were them, I would have hold whoever is in power and say that ‘don’t fix the net, we not voting for you’. They are Guyanese too and they are being left behind,” he told a cheering audience on Saturday.Speaking of his experience of working and travelling to different countries around the world, Singh said even Afghanistan in the midst of war had Internet service, but the Kaieteur National Park had “literally no Internet there”.A section of the gathering at the Digital Wealth Creation Summit held over the weekendThe businessman and philanthropist said for the coastal region, the bandwidth was also poor and stated that it must be improved in order for Guyana to reap the full benefits of digital wealth. “What we need is fibre. We don’t need 50 megawatts, we need one gigabyte,” he asserted.Singh continued, “Because you cannot fuel innovation and wealth creation in the country in the Internet age unless you have bandwidth. Bandwidth helps to fuel intellectual capital growth and innovation. Your competition is not here in Guyana, but some man from India, or Shanghai.”While declaring that many jobs would be replaced with technology in the near future, Singh said before Guyana could begin to create Internet wealth and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies, “we need to solve the bandwidth quagmire and liberate the people of this country from the digital constipation they are forced to live with”.Intellectual capitalAnother important topic Singh touched on was the need to safeguard intellectual capital of locals. The businessman is of the strong opinion that the laws in relation to this are sadly inadequate. He has advised that policy decision makers have more discussions around this with the aim of trying to set a stage for this to take effect in Guyana. This area, he claimed, has the potential to create massive wealth.Singh also raised concerns over the country’s reluctance to embrace fully the new Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6). This most recent version of the Internet Protocol (IP), the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers on networks and routes traffic across the Internet, is already being used in many countries, especially those in the developed world.The Summit, which was hosted for the second year, was aimed especially for entrepreneurs (whether veteran or aspiring); service professionals; students; or anyone who has a burning dream and desire to do what they love and to relentlessly pursue their dreams.Some of the speakers and presenters included: Dr Rosh Khan, the brain behind the event who is the CEO of the Masterclass Institute and SocialRankMedia as well as the local franchise holder/lead consultant of FranklinCovey; Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes; Gabriel Abed, the founder of Bitt.com, a Barbados-based blockchain startup; Ramesh Persaud, the CEO of the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED); Valrie Grant, founder and Managing Director of GeotechVision, and Samantha Sheoprasad –a 2017 recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award.
At a time when the country’s elections body is expected to employ more staff for the imminent General and Regional Elections, concerns about its hiring practices still linger as the Ethnic Relations Commission’s investigation at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is yet to be completed.ERC Chairman, Dr John SmithAccording to ERC Chairman, Dr John Smith, while the probe was expected to be wrapped up since last year, this was not done.“We out-sourced the investigators… [But] they needed some more time and I gave them the time… No [I can’t say how long more they need], but the report has to come back to the Commissioners and then we will inform the public,” Dr Smith told Guyana Times on Wednesday.Retired Justice Stanley Moore, who had served as Home Affairs Minister under late President LFS Burnham during the People’s National Congress (PNC) regime, along with former Deputy Commissioner of Police Lloyd Smith and human resources consultant Jairam Petam, was recruited to inquire into claims made by People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) GECOM Commissioners Bibi Shadick, Sase Gunraj and Robeson Benn, that there was an ethnic imbalance at the elections body and hiring practices were being manipulated in favour of one group.The team was supposed to complete the probe in three weeks during October. However, the time was extended as the probe widened and to date, there has been no indication as to when it would be concluded.“I can’t say exactly in terms of timing [when the report will be available]… There is not really [any revised deadline], because they encountered some difficulties and that stalled the whole investigation and getting out the report,” the ERC Chairman stated.When asked about the difficulties that are delaying the investigation, Dr Smith opted not to go into detail, telling this publication that they would be known when the report was completed.Last year, the Elections Commission was embroiled in controversy after it was alleged former Deputy Chief Elections Officer Vishnu Persaud was overlooked for the position because of his ethnicity despite him being the top ranked candidate.The Commission went ahead and hired the second-ranked candidate Roxanne Meyers, after GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson broke the deadlock and voted in favour of her.Since then, there have been allegations that candidates applying for posts at GECOM were being rejected and accepted based on their ethnicity and political alignment.After these claims were made, the ERC had scheduled a meeting with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, where the matters were raised. The ERC also met with President David Granger at that time.At a press conference prior to the probe, the GECOM Chairman had said that qualifications ultimately trumped race when filling vacancies. When asked whether deliberate efforts to achieve racial diversity were being made, Patterson had contended that deliberate efforts were being made to get the best people and that he had “no apologies” for that.The ERC is a constitutional body. It works with persons and agencies to promote harmonious ethnic relations. The Commission also deals with complaints, promotes training in racial harmony, and fosters a sense of security, among all ethnic groups.Meanwhile, the PPP/C Commissioners had also registered complaints of Chairman Patterson using his post to muzzle them on the issue of hiring practices. During a statutory meeting, Commissioner Benn had highlighted issues regarding the ethnic composition of the workforce at the GECOM Secretariat, having pointed out that the perception was that the vast majority of the staff of the Commission were persons of one ethnicity.The PPP/C Commissioners had said that the Chairman prevented Benn from further defending his position and when challenged, adjourned the meeting for over half an hour.Their allegations followed by an earlier statement by executive member of the PPP, Dr Roger Luncheon who made allegations against GECOM on the same issue.