My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Minister Paulwell gives Parliamentarians and 20,000 Students in 30 Schools Tablets- Future in Science and Technology now rescued Indiana Jones and the Palace of Doom

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Minister Paulwell gives Parliamentarians and 20,000 Students in 30 Schools Tablets- Future in Science and Technology now rescued Indiana Jones and the Palace of Doom

And they came, both men and women, as many  as  were  willing  hearted,  [and]  brought  bracelets,  and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man  that  offered  [offered]  an  offering  of  gold  unto  the LORD.

Exodus 35 vs 22, King James Version

It’s Budget Debate time here in Jamaica, albeit with less pomp and more somber faces than the last time. I won’t focus on the increasingly diminishing buying power of the Jamaican dollar or the other antics that would require a separate article.

Rather I’m focusing on the announcement by Minister Phillip Paulwell of the Ministry of Science, Technology Energy and Mining as it relates to Tablets for Primary and Preparatory Schools and Parliamentarians, who apparently are children!

He’d given the Parliamentarians their Tablets in Parliament on Thursday April 25th 2013 as he explained to them the Second Phase of the E-Learning Program as stated in the article “Paulwell gives tablets to parliamentarians”, published Friday April 26, 2013, The Jamaican Gleaner.

By this act, he was keeping the promise he’d made for Parliament and the various Ministries to go paperless and be interconnected via their own private Network titled GovNET as explained in my blog article entitled “GOJ Parliamentarians upgraded to Microsoft Surface Tablets and GovNET Wide Area Network - Minister Paulwell efforts to reduce paper may accelerate Jamaican Tablet Adoption”.

Even his Budget Presentation, aptly titled “Fuelling for Growth” was in paperless form, available on the gifted Tablets for further perusal by his fellow Parliamentarians. The funds to cover the E-Learning II and the Parliamentarians getting Tablets and GovNET, some JA$800 million, were accessed from the JA$10 billion deep UAFCL (Universal Access Fund Company Limited). This, dear reader, is the same Telecom-Tax (or Cess if you prefer!) that’s being used to fund the First Phase of the E-Learning Project, E-Learning I.

E-Learning I involved the building of a Fiber Optic Network jointly by Telecom Provider LIME and Triple Play Provide FLOW that started back in April 2011 as noted in my blog article entitled “LIME, FLOW and the $JA543-million Internet plan - Ebony and Ivory”.

As part of his ambitions to go Paperless, Minister Phillip Paulwell also has plans to eliminate the current Hansard Reports System, the still very human type-as-you-talk transcription system with one that may just use Voice Recognition to take down dictations, thereby eliminating JA$500,000 spend on making these reports. Suddenly a few Hansard Transcriptionists may be out of work!

Two (2) days earlier, he’s announced in his 2013/2014 Budget Presentation on Wednesday April 24th 2013 the starting of the second phase of the E-Learning Project, dubbed E-Learning II. E-Learning II initial program, the Schools Tablet Computer Programme, involves some thirty (30) Schools whose students are under-performing getting some 20,000 Tablet computers loaded with Educational Software as stated in the article “30 schools to get 20,000 tablet computers, Paulwell says”, published Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:27 PM, The Jamaican Observer.

Specifically, the thirty (30) Schools break down as follows:

1.      Five (5) Early Childhood Institutions
2.      Ten (10) Primary Schools
3.      Five (5) Junior High Schools
4.      Ten (10) High Schools

No word on the specs of the Tablet, save that they’re subsidized heavily by the GOJ (Government of Jamaica). But I’m willing to bet it may be the same ones given to the Med Sci Students in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of the West Indies as I’d reported in a my previous blog article entitled “UWI Medical Sciences Students get deal on JL Mobile SmartTab Tablets and cheaper ebook versions of Textbooks - From Gross Anatomy to Islandwide Push towards Tablet Adoption”.

Same features too:

1.      Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) and 3G Wireless Broadband Capable
2.      Educational Software and e-books
3.      Built in Anti-Theft Tracking feature to allow the Tablet to be quickly recovered if stolen
4.      Pornographic and suspect Websites that are not for Educational purposes being blocked. Translation: No Game Sites or Social Networking

At the Post-Cabinet Press Briefing, Minister Phillip Paulwell went into more details on the Tracking and Anti-Theft Features as reported in the article “Security Features in Tablet Computers for Students”, published Friday, 26 April 2013 10:07 By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter, Jamaica Information Service. Tracking technology which many Technophiles know too well from the numerous stories about Anti-theft devices enableing the user to track the devices even after it’s stolen.

Believe it or not, Blocked websites are not as easily circumvented on a Tablet, especially as it’s not so easy to side-load programs onto a Tablet or visit blocked websites. The advantage of each student having Tablets is that it not only reduces their book-load, but it also makes IT (Information Technology) an integral part of School, not another Course. Homework can be sent via email and take home, requiring that all Teachers be Tech-savvy, a necessity for teacher to be in the modern Teaching Profession and not relegate the use of the Computers to just IT Teachers only.

But best of all it results in a cost reduction to the Ministry of Education as it relates to building more IT Labs, as IT Classes can be done in the classroom, requiring that only Wi-Fi be installed in the classroom and the students purchase a detachable Keyboard for the Tablet if they’re not comfortable with touch-typing.

Thieves planning to steal the Tablets for the Tiny Tots and High Schoolers, therefore have another thing coming, to quote Minister Phillip Paulwell: “For those people who think that they will be able to steal them, you will probably be able to steal one, but you won’t be able to use it, and we will find you long before you know it”.

So no need for parents to worry about kids becoming Targets for Tablet Theft; if stolen they’re practically useless to anyone else with little technical know-how. By the time they’ve sat down to root the tablet, the mere act of powering it on gives away the location of the culprit, making it easy to arrest them.

But woe be onto the truant children from these under-performing schools, as Minister Paulwell had a warning for them as well, quote: “Every one of these devices will have a feature that can track them wherever they are, anywhere in the world. So, if for example, a child is missing from school, we can tell their parents where the child has been”.

So these first Tranche of Tablets (is that proper used of the word “Tranche?”) is to encourage those students in schools that are deemed to be under-performing to improve their Test Scores. In the process, it should foster a desire to pursue a Career in the Sciences.

It should also fuel a love for Computer Programming and Foreign Languages, critical for Jamaica to develop a Science and Technology Society necessary to be competitive in today’s Globalized Workforce as argued in my blog article entitled “LIME and Digicel both make Donations of Tablets to Preparatory and Primary Schools - How Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark started a Love for Computer Programming Languages in Jamaica”.

Hopefully, Minister Phillip Paulwell E-Learning II will get off to a rip-roaring start, with the Tiny Tots and High Schoolers being taught the first lessons on their Tablets. More importantly, they’ll be taught how to take care of these very delicate Computers. Also, teach the kids not to walk with them in their hands in Public and make sure they’re properly covered in a good Case to protect the screen as per the advice in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to make your own Cleaning Fluid and Cleaning Tips for your Smartphone or Tablet

Hopefully too, the Private Sector will also come to the aid of the GOJ and assist with similar donations of Tablets to under-performing Schools as Telecom Provider LIME and Telecom Provider Digicel have done as chronicled in my blog article entitled “LIME and Digicel both make Donations of Tablets to Preparatory and Primary Schools - How Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark started a Love for Computer Programming Languages in Jamaica”.

One thing is for sure; this Proliferation of Tablets will not only result in Dancehall Artistes having something new to sing about, but it’ll make the Joneses in High Society clamour to get themselves a Tablet, just so they won’t be left out. Thus this’ll boost the desire to purchase Tablet among the general population wanting to Keeping Up with the Kardashians (TV Series 2007–), so to speak.

This in turn this will help the Telecom Providers who may be planning to come to Jamaica to build out a 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) Wireless Broadband Network using the 700MHz Spectrum over the next five (5) years my blog article entitled “LIME outsources Network Maintenance to Ericsson - The Lone Rangers in Telecoms may have to Tag Team to get a 700Mhz license for 4G LTE”.

These new competitors in Wireless Broadband as well as Telecom Provider LIME and Telecom Provider Digicel will in the future capitalize on the increasing number of Mobile Computing devices over the next five (5) years of the build-out.

Meanwhile I get to be called Dr. Indiana Jones, which I think is cool. Jamaican Children’s Future in Science and Technology now rescued Indiana Jones and the Palace of Doom (1984) Style.

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