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Plans are well advanced to outfit the nation’s 165 high schools with high-speed Internet facilities by 2009.
Managing Director of the Universal Access Fund (UAF), Hugh Cross, made this disclosure at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on August 30.
According to Mr. Cross, it was the Fund’s intention to make this broadband network available to all high schools in the island. As such, a tender call for a proposal to provide the islandwide network has already been issued and come September, 31 of the 165 schools would be involved in a pilot project.
The pilot project would cost the Government just under $500 million, and upon completion, providing Internet facilities for students to communicate with each other as well as the opportunity to access information from their respective schools.
Continuing, he noted that the learning process would be further assisted as master lectures could be digitally encoded and housed at a central repository, which would allow students to repeat lectures as many times as needed.
He explained that the vision would also allow for the simultaneous broadcast of lectures from one school to another, thereby assisting students who might not have a teacher or are faced with the absence of a teacher in a particular subject area.
“There are many countries that are ahead of us and all their schools have access to the Internet and are already doing some of the things we are planning to do,” he noted.
Not only would the school community be impacted, the Managing Director pointed out, as his organization was looking at the possibility of extending the services to the public through libraries and Post Offices.
“We have identified some 80 Post Offices that we will be examining to see to what extent we can provide Internet services, which will allow persons to have access to the Internet to transact business,” he said.
With regard to the use of libraries, Mr. Cross explained that additional facilities would be supplied to the Jamaica Library Service, since some libraries are already outfitted with Internet capabilities.
“The Library Service has a mobile unit where they have Internet access included, and we would want to work with them to extend it beyond what they currently have,” he explained.
The Government has achieved universal access in voice telephony and is now concentrating on fulfillment of universal access to data via the Internet. As such, the Universal Access Fund Co. Ltd (UAF) was established in May 2005 to collect the universal service levy from telecommunications companies and manage these funds for disbursement to Cabinet-approved projects of a universal service nature. Currently, the fund has an accumulated value of over $1.2 billion.