Gov’t agency plans to improve students’ access to Internet

October 21, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of schools for face-to-face learning since March. Children now rely on the Internet for teaching and learning activities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of schools for face-to-face learning since March. Children now rely on the Internet for teaching and learning activities.

The Universal Service Fund (USF) says it will shortly be embarking on a programme to assist students experiencing challenges accessing the Internet to participate in online classes.

Daniel Dawes, the company's CEO, said that "based on the COVID-19 experience, students are not able to go to school. So we want to go inside the communities to see how we can provide Internet so that they can have access to their online schooling ... particularly in underserved and unserved areas," Dawes said.

The USF boss said that the programme to assist the students is being developed in partnership with several key stakeholders.

"We are working very closely with e-Gov Jamaica Limited and the National Works Agency [NWA] ... to ensure that all of Jamaica is covered with broadband [Internet service]," he noted, adding that "in short order, you will see the Universal Service Fund in communities".

Public Wi-Fi hotspot

Dawes also advised that the USF is looking to increase the number of public Wi-Fi hotspot locations islandwide. Nine have so far been established. He said that the areas being targeted are Ocho Rios, St Ann; Chapleton, Clarendon; Annotto Bay, St Mary; and Morant Bay in St Thomas, as well as a location in Westmoreland. Additionally, Dawes said the USF will be providing Internet service for the closed Harbour Beach Park in Montego Bay, which is being constructed by the Urban Development Corporation.

The USF, an agency of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, is mandated to facilitate islandwide community Internet access. It last week donated several devices to the Western Regional Health Authority. They include six tablet computers, four multifunction printers, and a Wi-Fi router.

Other News Stories