Major technology initiatives to increase Internet access to students in rural areasTuesday, December 15, 2020
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Government, through its agencies, will be implementing three major technology initiatives aimed at increasing access to the Internet and electronic educational content for students living in rural and inner-city communities.
Speaking in the House of Representatives this afternoon, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Daryl Vaz, said the Government will be making investments to provide the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) with the capacity to broadcast digitally over the air using digital transmission technology.
“This decision is grounded in the fact that digital broadcast can reach over 85 per cent of households who own a Smart TV set. Smart TV sets already have the ability to receive the digital signal without the addition of external devices,” Vaz said.
He noted that the digital transmission system will enable the PBCJ to provide multiple channels of educational content on a 24/7 basis. This is in recognition that many of our students have fallen behind and will need many hours of remedial lessons to catch up.
Vaz said for those Jamaicans that do not own a Smart TV, all that will be required is an external digital set-top box to allow their existing television sets to receive the digital signals.
“The price of these digital set-top boxes range from between $2,500 and $5,000. The necessary preparatory works are in progress and we expect to implement this project over the next six months,” the minister informed.
In addition, the Government intends to make further investments to provide the PBCJ with access to high-speed fibre-optic communication backbone to connect with rural cable television networks to facilitate Internet-based information being made accessible to students at home using their computers and tablets.
“Work on this initiative is far advanced, with the National Works Agency (NWA) working closely with the rural cable television operators to coordinate activities regarding the layout of the fibre-optic-cable infrastructure,” Mr. Vaz stated.
So far, 18 out of 34 rural cable TV operators are using the fibre infrastructure to get content from the PBCJ.
However, Vaz said more needs to be done to connect the remaining rural cable TV operators to enable them to provide valuable educational material to their subscribers, and this is what this second initiative will seek to do.