Residents of Whithorn in Westmoreland Central now have access to a free, secured Wi-Fi hotspot that was installed by the Universal Service Fund (USF) under its Community Wi-Fi Programme.
The system can provide Internet access for up to 200 concurrent users.
It is the second Wi-Fi hotspot to be installed in the constituency.
The service was initially established on Cooke Street in December 2021, while Poppy Street will enjoy free Internet access in short order.
The USF, an agency of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, will outfit three communities in each constituency with Wi-Fi access points under the Community Wi-Fi Programme.
USF Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Dawes, said the infrastructure will keep residents abreast of information and help to boost education in the area.
“Once you want to do anything on the Internet, you don't have to have any data bundle on your phone. The Government understands that during the COVID-19 ravaging, many children were not able to go online. Most homes have tablets and phones, but they could not afford the data bundle; and so [Portfolio] Minister Daryl Vaz instructed us to give each constituency three,” he said at the official launch in the community last Thursday.
Dawes indicated that the USF has also embarked on a programme to outfit schools islandwide with Internet access at a cost of some $1.2 billion.
In his remarks, USF's Director of Projects, Kwan Wilson, said the community Wi-Fi programme is a commitment of the USF's mandate of bridging the digital divide across Jamaica.
He maintained that access to the Internet is a driver of growth in communities and encouraged residents to take advantage of the service and preserve the facility.
For principal of the Haddo Primary and Infant School, Rochelle McGregor-Smith, the technology “is what is needed to help drive education” in Whithorn and adjoining communities
“Earlier, you would have noticed that the pandemic hit the world, and education, like everything else, went on.
“However, there are students among us, in our communities and in our homes who were not able to keep abreast with the rest of the world, because they lacked the technology that was required to move forward. So, I want to ask community members, parents, students and teachers to make full use of the resources we have been granted,” she said.
Principal of the Ferris Primary School, Tracie Campbell, in her remarks, said the facility would add value to the community, noting that “having this level of technology in Whithorn means more knowledge at our fingertips.”
She added that it provides the opportunity for residents to transact business in real-time.
“Let us embrace the opportunity to use this technology to uplift and improve our community,” Campbell said.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Central, George Wright, urged the students to use the technology for its intended purpose.