GUYANA today stands at an interesting crossroad. The nation is gearing up for the exponential escalation of its socio-economic development, while simultaneously preparing to become an integral part of the 21st century global village, a world where all the futuristic technological wonders of tomorrow are already coming into being – from self-driven electric vehicles, to Artificial Intelligence-driven robotics, and Augmented Reality-driven media, such as hologram, and also the Internet of Things, where ordinary appliances and even our living spaces become Internet-networked objects. In developed societies, homes are already converting to smart-home status, with Google Nest and Amazon’s Alexa already controlling smart lighting and heating and AC and controlling door access, and even biometrically approving who could open doors.
Global technology companies are now launching tens of thousands of satellites into the stratosphere to beam free wifi Internet to all corners of the earth, and experts project that within the next four years, every human being anywhere on the planet would have access to free, high-speed Internet connection. With 5G already rolling out in much of the world, and 6G on the near horizon, the vision of a future where literally everything is hooked up to the Internet and under AI command is already a factor that global thinkers and policy formulators are taking into consideration when developing long-term development policy.
As this country opens new development lands for new highways across virgin territory; and clears ancient land space for sparkling new hotels and other projects; and as the bridge spanning the Corriverton River linking Suriname and Guyana comes into play; and with the modern highway from Georgetown to Brazil on stream; with luxury, gated housing communities in Essequibo and Berbice; and with international hotels on the steps of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, with all these futuristic projects already well underway, it is of utmost importance that Guyanese cultivate a visionary, futuristic, technological mindset, that this nation approaches its future with an eye to 20, 50, 100 years ahead.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change is mandating countries around the world to adapt to the new future, of, for example, building smart buildings, and converting yesteryear’s old buildings from carbon-generating ‘dead’ buildings into alive, organic, breathing, sustainable buildings, where walls, floors and ceilings integrate with the natural environment in a friendly and sustainable way. Such theories are also being applied to roads and highways and bridges and other infrastructure. Much is underway in the world right now, with The Elders organisation leading a push to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, which seek to align the world away from the Industrial Age’s alarming carbon footprint, to a smart, organic, breathing new world, where the natural environment and human development work hand in hand. Indeed, the world is moving in the direction of Dr Cheddi Jagan’s vision for a New Global Human Order, which he had presented to the UN.
It seems fruitful, then, for Guyana to adopt a futuristic approach to its development vision, and once this early phase of President Ali’s agenda to install key infrastructure and ramp up the housing sector and make sure all sectors of the economy are functioning well is established, that Guyanese development planners design a full technological Guyanese society.
Experts around the world worry about the 50+ years old bridges and highways and state buildings in much of the developed world, because these massive steel and concrete structures do not fit in with the goal of the Paris Agreement, being massive generators of carbon footprints, contributing heavily to pollution. Planners are grappling with the question of how to convert these structures into smart structures, where they become organic, alive, sustainable infrastructure, rather than dead weight stifling the land.
While some experts propose converting walls, ceilings and open floors to green spaces with plants and other organic, sustainable designs, others propose embedding Internet connectivity to the materials that make walls, roads and bridges and so on. For roads and highways and public infrastructure, experts are well underway in implementing a system of smart building materials, to, for example, charge electric vehicles while they use the roadway. The Internet of Things makes all these real possibilities today. In fact, several futuristic brand new smart cities exist around the world, where these technologies are under experiment and testing and refining for imminent mainstream global roll-out.
This kind of thinking is now sweeping the corridors of power around the world, and in fact a major global meeting in 2020 of the World Economic Forum – at which teenage environmental guru Greta Thunberg gave the main speech — mandated global leaders to accelerate conversion of the world system to a sustainable, smart new world.
For small countries such as Guyana and those in the Caribbean, it would be easier to transition to this new future, simply because there’s no major old web of infrastructure and systems to convert. This country is building from scratch, starting from the bottom, and therefore would be able to implement smart structures from the ‘get go.’ In that, there’s much optimism that Guyana would become a smart, sustainable, Internet-networked society way before the developed world catches up to the new future.
What’s absolutely necessary, is for this country to develop a national pool of visionaries, futuristic innovators, and design thinkers to imagine what’s possible for a futuristic Guyana, and to contribute ideas, suggestions, and new solutions to national planners.
Guyana cannot sit back and allow future development to be of the default future, where the country stumbles into whatever comes. Given the rich natural resources of the country, and the amazing human capital of the Guyanese people with their penchant for innovative solutions, the nation could easily be lulled into sitting back and allowing a default future to drive the ship forward. However, it would serve Guyanese well, were the nation to install a paradigm of designing the future that thinkers believe is possible, to, in other words, design the destiny of the Guyanese people, looking to a visionary future rather than just expecting everything to fall into place.
Everybody would agree on one thing for sure: Guyana is a nation that has a bright future as a key, leading member of the 21st century global community. Such a possibility should make Guyanese stand up and design the path forward with confidence, optimism, and excited motivation. The nation’s destiny is in the hands of Guyanese, and the nation will be what citizens make it to be.