Gov't aiming to make New Kingston a 'Smart Town'

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, March 11, 2018

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The Government is planning a pilot project aimed at turning the commercial district of New Kingston into Jamaica's first smart town.

“We are looking to roll out the first smart town in Jamaica in New Kingston, where we will continue the process of enabling connectivity,” Minister of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET) Dr Andrew Wheatley informed the media at his ministry on Wednesday.

“So you will be seeing a lot of benefits coming out of that pilot project. We have been doing a lot of testing. In fact, the infrastructure is already there on the ground,” he stated.

“It is a very active area, a business centre and quite a bit of vehicular and human traffic. I like it for a start,” the minister added.

He said that the change to smart city would involve fully digitising the area with free Wi-Fi access in all areas as well as modern technology to encourage the use of digital equipment for all form of services.

However, he insisted that the change would not only be about connectivity, but would also represent an improvement in the safety and security of the people using its facilities.

“I am sure that in the very near future Spanish Town will become the next smart town,” the minister predicted, noting that no country in the Caribbean currently has a smart town.

Wheatley noted that the project would be in line with the commitment made by the Government in its 2016 election manifesto to create a smart digital Jamaican society.

“We will provide access to citizens who want access to digital services. We have developed policies and we are creating opportunities. We will not only be relying on the private sector to embark on these initiatives to achieve our objectives,” he noted.

Wheatley pointed out that already there are some 300 communication access points across Jamaica, and that last year the Government commissioned five free public Wi-Fi facilities — Devon House in Kingston, Mandela Park (Half-Way-Tree), downtown Kingston, Mandeville, and Junction in St Elizabeth.

“And we are still looking at opening others in town centres like Annotto Bay and Brown's Town. So it is part of the Government's policy to make sure that we keep our people connected through initiatives like these,” he stated.

A smart town or city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information used to manage assets and resources efficiently. This includes data collected from citizens, devices, and assets that is processed and analysed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems.

The function marked the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology; the Ministry of Transport and Mining; the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC); and local technology company Growth-Tech Limited, through which Growth-Tech will provide free Internet access on JUTC buses daily by the end of the year.

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