Residents and visitors to Ocho Rios, in St. Ann, now have access to free, secured internet.
The free public Wi-Fi was commissioned into service in the Ocho Rios Town Centre, on Friday (December 4), by the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, through the Universal Service Fund (USF).
The hotspot can accommodate up to 200 persons who are browsing simultaneously.
This is the 11th Wi-Fi hotspot to be installed across the island, with the towns of Chapelton in Clarendon and Port Antonio, Portland set to receive free internet service next week.
Free Internet access is already available at Emancipation Park, Mandela Park, St. William Grant Park, Olympic Way and Devon House in Kingston and St. Andrew; Cecil Charlton Park in Mandeville; May Pen, Clarendon; Junction, St. Elizabeth ; Montego Bay, St. James and Annotto Bay, St. Mary.
Speaking at the launch, held at the Ocho Rios Clock Tower, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Daryl Vaz, reiterated Government’s commitment to advancing the “technological goals of Jamaica.”
“We are living in a time of constant change, which is characterised and defined by technology. It is therefore fitting that we ensure that the length and breadth of this island is covered and powered by technology,” he said.
Mr. Vaz emphasised that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is critical to the country’s development and “our policy efforts,” noting that Government is focused on advancing “a digital and knowledge based society, where our people are well educated and use their knowledge to drive innovation, entrepreneurship and quality of life.”
“Our national development plan, Vision 2030, positions ICT as an enabler, a tool to attain developed country status by the year 2030. It will create linkages amongst all sectors, improved communication and service delivery of Government,” the Minister pointed out.
He said a plan is being devised to roll out full broadband across the “length and breadth of Jamaica.”
The Minister encouraged individuals to enjoy the free service and “use the Wi-Fi wisely and responsibly.”
Meanwhile, State Minister in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and Member of Parliament for North East St. Ann, Hon. Marsha Smith, said the newly commissioned Wi-Fi service will help to bridge the digital divide that exists in parish.
“There has been a global trend toward online communication, social interaction and commerce and this trend has been accelerated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and this pandemic has exposed that there is within our country a great digital divide. The extension of the accessibility to the public broadband service in this area of St. Ann will certainly go a long way to reducing this digital divide,” she said.
The hotspots come at a cost of $20 million each, with $5 million for set-up and installation and $15 million for service cost for three years.