Students living in Rock River and Mocho in Clarendon North Central can now access free and secured Internet, via Wi-Fi hotspots that have been installed in the communities by the Universal Service Fund (USF).
The connections were launched in both areas on Wednesday (January 11), under the USF’s Community Wi-Fi Programme.
Institutions such as Rock River Basic and Primary Schools, Brixton Hill Primary School, and Lennon High School, are expected to benefit the most. Business owners and other residents will also be able to access the connections.
Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with Responsibility for Information and Member of Parliament for the constituency Robert Morgan, said he advocated for the hotspots to be placed near schools to help bridge the digital divide experienced by students in rural areas, and provide them with “an opportunity to join in the global education and entertainment space”.
“The world has evolved to where [the] Internet and access to the Internet is a priority. As a matter of fact, access to the Internet could be considered a human right. If persons are not given the access, they’re at a disadvantage,” he said.
Morgan noted that most parents in the communities cannot afford to purchase data for their children to access online classes and other resources.
Consequently, he disclosed that other Wi-Fi hotspots were established in the communities of Chapelton and Stewarton.
“The last one that we’re getting is up in Beckford Kraal [which] is one of the largest communities in North Central Clarendon,” he advised.
Meanwhile, Director of Procurement, USF, Melissa Taylor, said the agency has outfitted Simon Primary and Infant School, Main Ridge Primary School, Chapelton All-Age School, Woodhall Primary School, and the Sangster Heights Community Resource Centre with Internet connection.
“Additionally, under the islandwide broadband initiative, the May Pen Hospital and Branch Library, Lennon High School, Clarendon College, Clarendon Health Department, May Pen Police Station, Chapelton Post Office [and] Police Station have all benefited from the support from the USF, in terms of absorbing the cost of Internet bills,” she disclosed.
Principal of Rock River Primary, Nadine Raymond-Sharpe, noted that exposure to technology will enable parents to work better with their children “when [they are] doing their research, and for them to communicate more effectively, locally and internationally”.
“Our parents also will be happy, especially those who cannot afford to purchase data. They can now come into the town centre to utilise the Internet,” she said.
Mrs. Raymond-Sharpe added that the hotspot is an asset that will help residents “become more competitive and marketable in the global economic [environment]”.
Principal of Brixton Hill Primary School, Leon Clair, who welcomed the project, said a paradigm shift continues to take place in the education sector.
“It is not the chalk and the ‘[talking]’ in the school anymore, neither the whiteboard nor the marker. We are now using the Internet to disseminate information [to] the different stakeholders,” he stated.