The Zara Group of Companies on Friday launched the first Cyber Security Centre in Georgetown at the recommissioning of the Felix Austin Computer training centre, having provided over 3,000 persons including children and members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) with computer training.
The Felix Austin Police College was officially recommissioned as the Zara Cyber Security Centre, following the refurbishment of the lab by the Zara Group of Companies out of the United States of America. The aim is to teach police officers, the business community and the public how to combat cybercrime and security in Guyana.
Since its partnership with the Guyana Police Force began, three computer centres have been commissioned.
The first was at the Felix Austin Police College, Adventure Berbice in 2012. The second was one year later, at the Richard Faikall Training College, Suddie on the Essequibo Coast.
Over the past few years, with a contribution of approximately $120 million, the Zara Group has trained 1,807 adults and 948 children from several communities across the country along with 805 police officers.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Security Daniella McCalmont, speaking at the recommissioning, described the collaboration as a very valuable one which has over the years supported capacity building in crime fighting and building community-policing relationships.
Ten years ago, McCalmont said, the GPF was primarily a paper-based institution, but this has changed. She noted that the use of information and communications technology was rapidly emerging as a key response to critical issues faced in the country.
The introduction of the Citizen Security Programme resulted in the implementation of a number of IT-enabled systems in policing including the Integrated Crime Information System (ICIS) and the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) and the use of the automated fingerprinting information system.
These IT-enabled systems, she said assisted the force in the gathering, storing and easy retrieval of information. “Gathering and processing intelligence will certainly improve the investigative capability of the members of the force by enhancing their knowledge,” she said.
She noted that individuals must be equipped with the tools to exist in a digital economy or they would find themselves socially and economically excluded and vulnerable.
Acting Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine, in his brief remarks, said the centre will provide the force with the capacity and capability to deal with cyber threats. “Today we are evidencing not only traditional crimes… [but] internet crimes, trafficking in persons, passenger interdiction… They are becoming more frequent issues for government, citizens and ultimately law enforcement,” he stated.
In order to effectively deal with the threats, he said, in the absence of cybercrime legislation, the force will have to continue to explore opportunities and build capability to tackle it.
“We first have to ensure that our (human) resources are equipped with the necessary skills and competencies,” he said while adding that the training provided at the Zara centre will broaden the ranks’ understanding of the threats of cybercrime.
At present, the force has two members who are certified in cybercrime investigation, one of whom is an Interpol certified cybercrime trainer. A few other ranks have recently been sent on various programmes that had to do with cybercrime.
In the future, he said, the force also hopes to establish a unit at the Criminal Investigation Department Headquarters to address the challenges of cybercrime.
Senior Vice President of Zara Group Jay Subraj said that in ten years, his group has managed to establish 14 such education systems in Guyana and North America. “It is our duty to serve our country, our roots, this is our motherland,” he said.
Zara was established in 1982 by three Guyanese brothers—Ken Subraj, Jay Subraj and the late George Subraj.