Minister of Science, Technology and Commerce, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, says Government will be calling on local technology experts to provide content for the Schools Tablet Computer Programme.
He noted that most of the material can be developed here in Jamaica and it will provide an opportunity for small software developers and applications (apps) programmers to participate “in what will be a massive project”.
Minister Paulwell, who was speaking to JIS News following a post-Budget press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on May 3, said the move, which is supported by the Opposition, is in keeping with Government’s mandate to enable Jamaican businesses to migrate to the upper end of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) spectrum.
“We have been pretty much performing in the mid-range with the call centre operations, but we need to get more of our programmers, software developers gainfully involved, and I think it can start with this project that we are about to roll out,” Minister Paulwell said.
He also informed that the Government will be pursuing the proposal for a fund to be established to assist small and medium-sized businesses in this area as well, and is looking at the Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide support.
During his 2013/14 Budget Debate Presentation in the House of Representatives on April 24, Minister Paulwell provided details of the programme, under which some 20,000 computer tablets will be provided to students and teachers at 30 schools free of cost. These comprise five early childhood institutions, 10 primary, five junior high, and 10 high schools.
Minister Paulwell also informed then that the tablets would be Wi-Fi and 3G enabled, and would come pre-loaded with approved age-appropriate games and apps, Ministry of Education prescribed texts, and all the software required for students up to Grade 12 to complete their School Based Assessments (SBAs).
The pilot for the Schools Tablet Computer Programme is set to start in September with the training of teachers and proper orientation of the students. The Minister estimates however, that it will take approximately two months to go through the orientation, before the tablets are distributed to students.
“We are going to meet with the parents as part of the preparatory work to ensure that these tablets are properly cared for,” Minister Paulwell told JIS News.
He noted, too, that the USF and E-learning project will be responsible for the initial maintenance of the tablets under arrangements with the providers.
Minister Paulwell informed further that the Ministry will be seeking to have the tablets built to specifications so that they will be damage and theft-proof.
“The tablets are going to have special features and the criminals will find out very soon that if you steal one, you are going to be caught. We are going to be able to track you down. We are going to be able to disable the machine so you won’t be able to use it but very importantly, we are going to know exactly where you are and we are going to make an example of anyone, who tries to steal the tablet,” he warned.
He informed that a major public education campaign will be launched on the issue of security of the tablets.
By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter