The country is one step closer to becoming a digital society, with 17 Internet sites across 10 communities now having broadband access through the Advancing Jamaica’s Digital Response to COVID-19 Rapid Finance Facility (COVID-RFF) Project.
Under the initiative, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, and the Universal Service Fund (USF), through its Community Wi-Fi initiative, expanded broadband access in several underserved communities.
These include Constant Spring, St. Andrew; Browns Town and Alexandria, St. Ann; Albion and Knightville, St. Thomas; Rio Bueno, Spring Gardens, and Alps District, Trelawny; Granville, St. James; Claremont District, Hanover; Burnt Savannah and Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland; Ballard Valley, St. Elizabeth and Thompson Town and Sangster’s Heights, Clarendon.
Funding from the COVID-RFF, totalling US$335,000, enabled the establishment of the sites, inclusive of community centres and schools.
Addressing the project’s closing ceremony at the UNDP Kingston office on Wednesday (April 19), Resident Representative, Denise Antonio, said the support extended has been holistically designed and tailored according to Jamaica’s needs.
She indicated that this has been guided by the provision of evidence-based policy insights that can strengthen Jamaica’s digital transformation, as well as through support for broadband access to select underserved communities.
“This broadband access is a vital tool for preparing future leaders to bring a tech-savvy and innovative mindset to solving future challenges,” she said, while noting that it is also essential for education and business transactions.
Chief Executive Officer, USF, Daniel Dawes, thanked the UNDP for its significant investment in support of Jamaica’s digital development.
“We must do all that we can to ensure this transformational experience [continues to completion],” he said.
The project, which ran from November 2020 to December 2022, involved direct investments in infrastructural strengthening for the expansion of broadband coverage across Jamaica.
This is consistent with the Government’s policy priorities to accelerate the country’s progress towards becoming a digital society.
The project also involved Jamaica’s first Digital Readiness Assessment (DRA) undertaken by the UNDP.
This component supports countries in assessing their digital transformation, and provides rapid, high-level insights on opportunities, gaps, and priorities.