With concerns mounting within the education system about lack of access to the Internet and an inability of many students to take part in online classes, the Universal Service Fund (USF) says it will be embarking on a programme to assist in addressing the challenges.
“Based on the COVID-19 [pandemic] experience, students are not able to go to school. So we want to go inside the communities to see how we can provide Internet [service] so that they can have access to their online schooling… particularly in underserved and unserved areas,” USF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Daniel Dawes told the JIS on Friday following a ceremony to hand over information and communication technology devices valued at $2.8 million to the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA).
The presentation was made at the WRHA’s office in Montego Bay, St James.
“We are working very closely with e-Gov Jamaica Limited and the National Works Agency [NWA] … to ensure that all of Jamaica is covered with broadband [Internet service],” he said, adding that “in short order, you will see the Universal Service Fund in communities”.
The Universal Service Fund aims to aims to establish free public WiFi hotspots in all parishes within the next two years.
The USF is also looking to increase the number of public WiFi hotspot locations islandwide, with nine already established to date.
Dawes said that among the areas being targeted are Ocho Rios, St Ann; Chapleton, Clarendon; and Annotto Bay, St Mary, and that “we [will] then be moving to Morant Bay in St Thomas, and Westmoreland”.
Additionally, he said the USF would be providing Internet service for the Closed Harbour Beach Park in Montego Bay, which is being constructed by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
The devices donated to the WRHA, including six tablet computers, four multi-function printers, and a WiFi router, are to help modernise the Authority’s patient management system, thereby improving client service delivery.
The USF, an agency of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, is mandated to facilitate islandwide community Internet access.
The entity executes several engagements to this end, one of which is its flagship ‘Connect Ja’ Project.
The initiative aims to establish free public WiFi hotspots in all parishes within the next two years.