Jamaica gets US help in islandwide Internet coverage

Jamaica gets US help in islandwide Internet coverage

Friday, January 23, 2015

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The Government of Jamaica is receiving support from the United States to increase access to the Internet in rural parishes and implement sustainable energy initiatives in the country.

The support comes through two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed on Wednesday (January 21) at the PCJ auditorium in Kingston.

The first MoU seeks to make use of unused television (TV) band spectrum, otherwise called TV white spaces (TVWS), to improve the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.

TVWS are vacant frequencies in between regular broadcast TV channels, and these will be used to provide wireless data connectivity to remote communities.

A six-month pilot project will be used to accommodate Internet bandwidth connectivity and adoption among stakeholders.

The second MoU outlines a programme of technical collaboration on the implementation of clean energy activities in the island.

Under the agreement, the Government of Jamaica will provide the necessary access to data, personnel and information to facilitate the project, while the US Government will provide technical assistance, training and support to Jamaica and energy sector entities, in the completion of the work.

According to minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell, the two MoUs are critical to the sustainable development and growth of the country.

"The agreements must not be judged on their material value alone, but their qualitative value and the tremendous contribution that they can make to the development of our human resources and the impact that they can have on our environment and equally valuable resources," he said.

Citing the agreement to explore unused TVWS, Paulwell said that the initiative "harmonises with our policy of utilising technology to enhance access to health care, education and training and in general to be an active participant in e-governance and e-commerce."

"The exploitation of this technology will help us to ensure that no community, no matter the terrain, no matter how remote will be left behind," he added.

Meanwhile US Ambassador to Jamaica, Luis G Moreno, said the MoUs will strengthen the relationship between the countries in two critical areas.

"The first, Jamaica Connects, will bring our two Governments together with Jamaican and US businesses to expand Internet access to underserved communities across the island," said Moreno.

He lauded the government for enacting reforms and liberalising the ICT sector resulting in the explosion in Internet connectivity across the island. "I want to strongly commend your efforts and encourage you to continue until there is universal access for all Jamaicans to reliable and affordable broadband," he added.

Turning to the MoU to support clean energy activities, Ambassador Moreno said the agreement, which falls under President Barack Obama's climate action plan, is important in helping the country reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and help combat the threats from global climate change.

"With this MoU, our governments will work together to establish the framework for clean energy development, optimise integrating renewable into the grid and accelerate private sector investment in clean energy," he noted.

Ambassador Moreno said the US government believes that Jamaica has the opportunity to become a global leader in climate change.

"While not a major global carbon emitter, by establishing a clean energy economy, Jamaica has the potential to become both a moral voice for change, and a practical model others can follow," he said.

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