JAM | May 15, 2023

1,500 residents gain community Wi-Fi access in St Andrew constituency

/ Our Today

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness (fourth left), unveils a sign to officially commission into service community Wi-Fi in Rhoden Crescent, Penwood, St. Andrew West Central, on May 11. Looking on (from left) are Principal, Penwood High School, Omar Largie; Mayor of Kingston, Senator Councillor Delroy Williams; Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz; Custos of St. Andrew, Ian Forbes and other stakeholders. (Photo: JIS)

Jamaica has made one more step in bridging the digital divide, approximately 1,500 residents from three communities in the St Andrew West Central constituency now have improved access to the Internet.

Tower Avenue, Cockburn Pen, and Penwood have been equipped with safe and secured community Wi-Fi, thanks to the efforts of the Universal Service Fund (USF). The official commissioning ceremony took place on Thursday (May 11), with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other dignitaries in attendance.

Holness, who is also the Member of Parliament for the area, led the commissioning ceremony, accompanied by Science and Technology Minister Daryl Vaz, Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams, Daniel Dawes, chief executive officer of USF, and various stakeholders. The ceremony was held at the Andrews Mews Recreational Park, where the prime minister reaffirmed the government’s commitment to providing Internet access to Jamaicans and transitioning into a digital society.

 Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second left), accesses the Internet via the free secured community Wi-Fi commissioned in Rhoden Crescent, Penwood, St. Andrew West Central, on May 11. Also sharing in the moment (from left) are Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz; Custos of St. Andrew, Ian Forbes and Chief Executive Officer, Universal Service Fund (USF), Daniel Dawes. (Photo: JIS)

Encouraging the residents to utilise the facilities wisely for education and self-improvement, Prime Minister Holness emphasised the transformative power of the Internet.

He stated, “On the information highway are vehicles that can uplift us, elevate us, that can take us to places that make us better people, that can help us to fulfill our dreams and aspirations. And so, the Government is interested in ensuring that every Jamaican can get access to the information highway because information that you convert to knowledge that gives you wisdom is power.”

Holness further expressed that providing every Jamaican citizen with as much access to the Internet as possible is not a waste of public resources.

Acknowledging the growing importance of digital services, the prime minister revealed that the government is investing millions of dollars to enhance public access to Wi-Fi in urban areas, high-traffic locations, and communities. He stressed the need for all Jamaicans, regardless of income level, to have access to the Internet, as it is becoming a public good.

To ensure inclusivity, Prime Minister Holness announced plans to develop programs to assist the elderly and other digitally illiterate individuals. He urged the USF to train and recruit online trainers/coaches from the beneficiaries of the Technology Advancement Programme (TAP) to support this initiative. The USF CEO, Daniel Dawes, encouraged interested individuals to apply for the TAP, stating that there are vacancies for another 100 persons.

Daryl Vaz, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology (Photo: Contributed)

Minister Vaz added that another location within the constituency would also benefit from improved Internet access. He disclosed that $1.3 billion has been allocated for additional community Wi-Fi projects in the current fiscal year. Minister Vaz emphasised the importance of connectivity, particularly in underserved areas, and announced the government’s commitment to achieving nationwide broadband coverage by 2025/26.

“While we wait on the bigger picture of the national broadband, which will give connectivity to every nook and cranny of Jamaica, especially those in the underserved areas, I am pleased that I was mandated by the Prime Minister that this project should take priority,” said Vaz.

The Universal Service Fund (USF), the government agency responsible for facilitating access to information and communication technology (ICT) tools for development, continues to play a pivotal role in bridging the digital divide and ensuring connectivity across Jamaica.

With the successful launch of community Wi-Fi in Tower Avenue, Cockburn Pen, and Penwood, residents now have enhanced opportunities for education, economic empowerment, and social inclusion in an increasingly digital world.


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