Belizeans were invited to "get with IT!" at a public forum on Information Technology (IT)
held at the Princess Hotel, Tuesday evening, April 3.

The Belize Information Technology Professionals Association (BITPA) organized the forum
for key IT organizations to pool information and network for development.

Computers and IT are affecting Belizeans' way of life and earning power in ways which
many may not have anticipated, but the technology has inexorably encroached on every
aspect of our lives.

This change is not without pitfalls, as Dr. Louis Zabaneh of the Ministry of Budget
Planning pointed out in his presentation. As opportunities open up for entrepreneurs to
create their own web sites to market goods and services, they may fall prey to cyber
criminals. Belize has passed a copyright law to protect intellectual property, but hackers
are ever bold and innovative, breaking codes and ciphers almost as fast as they are
written. Because of the nature of the worldwide web (www. ), these criminals can be
anywhere, and international cooperation is necessary for global policing.

The forum was a tour-de-force for Data Pro and its export processing zone. EPZ operator
Glenn Godfrey explained the legal, financial, and telecommunications services and other
infrastructure which his company offers to investors. "Telecommunications service must be
CHEAP, not affordable, to stimulate the development of e-commerce," Godfrey
emphasized. "God and Cabinet willing, we'll be able to do it by 2003!" he promised.

The University College of Belize had 10 graduates last year from its fledgling computer
science program begun in 1995, UB department head Charles McSwee-ney explained. He
said it was the university's policy not to develop programmes in a void but to consult with
the industry and to design the programme to meet the industry's needs, which are

The use of the Internet has evolved from what was once primarily text, to include
graphics, images, colour, voice and video, explained Management Information Systems
manager Rafael Marin of Belize Telecommunications Ltd. These multimedia uses require
ever increasing band width of transmission. Marin also outlined the pros and cons of
sending data in pack frame or by cell multiplexing and the new technology in routers.
Wide Area networks (WAN) using fiber-optic cables is the way the Ministry of Education
will link 5,000 computers it is installing in schools around the country, said Mustafa Toure,
computer consultant for the government of Belize. The Ministry of Education's four pronged
approach is targeting: a) students for improved access to the Internet, b) teachers for
computer training to teach their students and to use the technology for distance learning
courses from UB, c) improved public access to the Internet for everybody, d) and
affordable high-speed access which may be available to NGO's and other nonprofit

BITPA members also put questions to the panel to make the service providers more aware
of users' needs to create the most favourable environment for efficient service and the
effective use of IT.