USF Provides $430 Million for ICT Infrastructure Development in Tertiary Institutions

Photo: Mark Bell Chief Executive Officer of the Universal Service Fund (USF), Dr. Hugh Cross.

Story Highlights

  • The Universal Service Fund (USF) has provided nearly $430 million in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure development support for several tertiary institutions over the past four years.
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Hugh Cross, says this entailed the installation of broadband Internet service and state-of-the-art equipment, among other key inputs.
  • The Universal Service Fund, which falls under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, is a statutory agency established by Government to assist with the rapid deployment of Internet services and support infrastructure.

The Universal Service Fund (USF) has provided nearly $430 million in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure development support for several tertiary institutions over the past four years.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Hugh Cross, says this entailed the installation of broadband Internet service and state-of-the-art equipment, among other key inputs.

He tells JIS News that the University of the West Indies (UWI) was the most notable beneficiary, having received approximately $200 million in funding support.

This, he says, enabled the administration to undertake work at the institution’s 10 Open Campuses islandwide and the main Campus at Mona in St. Andrew.

Dr. Cross points out that $115 million was spent to upgrade the Open Campuses’ ICT infrastructure, which significantly enhanced student programme delivery through distance learning.

These campuses are located at Camp Road, Kingston; May Pen, Clarendon; Mandeville, Manchester; Junction, St. Elizabeth; Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland; Montego Bay, St. James; Ocho Rios and Brown’s Town, St. Ann; Port Antonio, Portland; and Morant Bay, St. Thomas.

Dr. Cross says the transformation of the open campuses into world-class facilities has improved the delivery of academic programmes at these locations, making it easier for students living outside of Kingston to access them.

The CEO tells JIS News that the UWI also received $85.86 million for campus-wide wireless Internet service installation at Mona, which can be accessed by students, faculty members and visitors. He points out that the same obtains at the Open Campuses.

“We also ensured that there was a spillover beyond the walls of the UWI, so that persons who are on the outside would also be able to have access to the Internet,” he adds.

Dr. Cross says $144 million was allocated for the provision of new state-of-the-art simulators at the Caribbean Maritime Institute’s (CMI) main campus at Palisadoes Park in Kingston.

He notes that the CMI was facing the prospect of decertification by the International Maritime Organization, because some of their key equipment, primarily simulators, which are critical to the academic programme, were deemed outdated.

Dr. Cross points out that consequent on the USF’s intervention, “they now have modern simulators which rival the best anywhere in the world”.

He informs that the allocation also included a sum for the provision of a 125-kilowatt solar-energy system to ensure there is a dedicated and stable power supply to operate the equipment.

Other beneficiaries include Kingston-based institutions Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, $17 million; Jamaica Theological Seminary, $10 million; Excelsior Community College, $8 million; and Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning, $18 million.

Additionally, the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in St. Catherine was allocated $9.6 million.

The CEO says the provisions have enabled the institutions’ management to procure modern state-of-the-art equipment and to install broadband Internet service.

Dr. Cross tells JIS News that an additional $38 million in funding support has been approved for disbursement.

This includes $20 million for the University of Technology, Jamaica to assist with upgrading of the Local Area Network at the institution’s main campus on Old Hope Road in Papine, St. Andrew; and $18 million for the UWI’s Medical Science Faculty.

Noting that the Faculty does a “tremendous amount of research” with “modest technological support”, Dr. Cross says they asked the USF to assist with infrastructure improvements.

“They indicated that they wanted the upgrade, because they have to collaborate with other universities across the world, and they needed high-speed facilities (in order to be able) to transmit a tremendous amount of data,” he outlines.

The CEO informs that preparatory developmental work is being carried out by the Faculty, “but we are on the verge of disbursing the funds to them”.

Dr. Cross says the USF is also giving consideration to a request from The Mico University College, which “is seeking to procure equipment to upgrade the institution’s technological capacity”.

He adds that an application from the College of Agriculture, Science and Education is also being considered.

“We are doing assessments now, after which we will determine the extent of the assistance they will receive from us. But they are most deserving and we will definitely provide some assistance,” Dr. Cross says.

The Universal Service Fund, which falls under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, is a statutory agency established by Government to assist with the rapid deployment of Internet services and support infrastructure.

This is to ensure that every Jamaican will have easy access to Internet services for personal and national development.

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