Stakeholders in the Universal Access Fund's programme to build the northern segment of the broadband wide area network recently announced the completion of the installation at 61 sites now powered with high-speed Internet supplied by broadband service provider Columbus Business Solutions (CBS), the business arm of Flow. Schools along the north coast are connected to Flow's fibre optic broadband network which delivers Internet access at speeds of up to 100 Mbps. CBS has provided the infrastructure as part of an agreement with the Universal Access Fund, signed in August 2011.
A delegation led by Phillip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining, observed demonstrations of the practical applications of the broadband technology. The group, which included Minister of State Julian Robinson; Hugh Cross, managing director of Universal Access Fund; Michele English, president and chief operating officer of Flow; and Avrill Crawford, chief executive officer of e-Learning Jamaica, observed students and teachers using the technology to receive and deliver instruction as part of the e-Learning Jamaica Project.
"Today is a tremendous occasion. The deployment of broadband technology into the schools represents the ability of the institutions to have full connectivity, to be fully a part of our e-learning project. This is an Internet-based facility that allows for the sharing of materials, and new approaches to teaching in the classroom, as well as access to a wealth of information to the teachers and, of course, to the students," said Minister Paulwell in commenting on the significance of the occasion. "This partnership with Flow is quite important as it represents a paradigm shift in the way our institutions are delivering education. This will make them far more efficient; it's going to make the process of teaching and learning a lot more seamless, and it will encourage our young people to remain in the classroom and to achieve a lot more."
Students at the connected schools will be able to access the e-learning data bank hosted on servers, review pre-recorded lectures and take online examinations, at their leisure, while teachers will benefit from technologies such as video conferencing and virtual training sessions - simultaneously. CBS's 100-Mbps broadband facility will enable faster downloads of streaming videos, images and large data files which are necessary to support the content delivery of e-Learning projects.
Flow president Michele English expressed satisfaction with the developments, stating that the broadband company is committed to providing the infrastructure to improve the access to technology needed to thrust education in Jamaica forward. "We are fully committed to the social and economic development of Jamaica and focused on supporting education any way we can so that everyone has an equal opportunity to become future leaders."
Speaking to the impact of the technology education outcome, Hugh Cross said, "Broadband technology will facilitate the improvement in the learning and teaching experience. It will inspire interest by the students and, ultimately, will allow them to perform better at examinations. We will ultimately have much better results, better educated students and we will be moving towards a knowledge-based society."
The Universal Access Fund, fuelled by access charged on overseas companies for telephone calls terminating in Jamaica, is the main source of funding for the project aimed at creating an islandwide broadband network providing public access to the Internet through schools, public libraries, post offices and other agencies. It was recently announced that the initiative, originally intended to be implemented in selected secondary schools, libraries and post offices across Jamaica, is to be extended to 700 primary schools following a review of the current programme. Tameka Edwards is the April 25 winner for the NCB Foundation and Youthlink Magazine Facebook Treasure Hunt Competition.