Around the world, digital natives integrate technology into their lives seamlessly, often in ways that are counterintuitive to other generations.
But in the Caribbean, governments are discovering ways to bridge that digital divide, through strategic partnerships with organisations like the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG).
The government of Guyana recently held an Internet Week, coordinated by the CTU and CaribNOG, alongside several international Internet bodies including the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Latin America and the Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC).
Catherine Hughes, Guyana’s Minister of Public Telecommunications, closed the five-day event with a two-hour town hall meeting with students. More than 300 from secondary schools around the country took part in the all-day event.
Lance Hinds, Special Advisor to the Minister, who opened the meeting, explained the day’s simple agenda: to empower young people to stay safe online while getting the most out of Internet technology.
The global importance of cyber safety translated into personal terms by Michelle Garcia, Communications Specialist with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, who spoke frankly about how to handle some of the very real dangers lurking around heavily frequented websites and popular social apps. Complementing Garcia’s message, Lydia Moise (CTU) told the young people that told that the power is in their hands to make the best use of the available technology.
To that point, a slate of young business people were on hand todemonstrate the potential of the digital economy. Rowen Willabus of Intellect Storm, Anushka Sonai of Spang Makandra, and Julius Simon of FarmersMarket.gy, took part in a panel of entrepreneurs, moderated by Claire Craig, IT Manager at The University of the West Indies.
The success of the day was most evident not just in the formal agenda but in its aftermath. Long after the formal close, students lingered in the hall, accosting various panelists with follow-up inquiries, taking selfies with the smiling Minister, and even introducing themselves to some of the international experts on hand to field their questions.
The Youth Day was the virtual exclamation at the end of a memorable Internet Week Guyana. Now the real work must continue, to deliver on future potential and convert promise into reality.