My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Free Wi-Fi and Smart City upgrade coming to New Kingston in Q3 2017


Saturday, December 31, 2016

How Free Wi-Fi and Smart City upgrade coming to New Kingston in Q3 2017

“As a government, we recognise that we have to embrace technology, and as we improve the way citizens do business on the Internet, the Government has committed to removing the barriers to facilitate use of these fantastic services, especially as it relates to citizen-to-government interactions”

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley announcing Free Wi-Fi CAP (Community Access Points) and Smart Cities

Free Wi-Fi may be coming to a town near you, all thanks to the USF (Universal Service Fund). And if all indications are on point, the first smart city in Jamaica may be New Kingston.

So says Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley as reported in the article “Gov’t to Provide More Free Wi-Fi Hotspots”, published November 30, 2016 By Chris Patterson, The Jamaica Information Service.

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He made this pronouncement during the fourth staging of the National Cyber Security Conference at the Regional Headquarters of the University of the West Indies, Mona, by CAIMAC (Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication) on Tuesday November 29th 2016.

The two-day conference held under the theme ‘Mobile Money, Online Banking and Citizen Awareness’ was a platform to introduce the initiative of Free Wi-Fi and Smart Cities. These upgrades, including the move to Smart city status are also free, costing the government nothing other than access to GOJ infrastructure that is in need of a facelift, to quote Dr Andrew Wheatley:  “It will not cost the Government anything - apart from what we've invested in the infrastructure that has been there for many years. We're simply energising that infrastructure and fully utilising it”.

So where is this free Wi-Fi?

Location of Free Wi-Fi in 2017 – Devon House already lit, more to come

Devon House already has free Wi-Fi if you frequently visit this historical location, most likely to buy their famous ice cream. But free Wi-Fi is also coming to other locations around Jamaica:

1.      Half-Way Tree
2.      Emancipation Park in Kingston
3.      Spanish Town, St Catherine
4.      Montego Bay, St James
5.      Ocho Rios, St Ann

The Free Wi-Fi, is being funded by the telecom cess to the USF, an agency of the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology. The USF will be doing the installation of the CAP (Community Access Points) in rural centres across the island.

This is all in addition to free access to GOJ (Government of Jamaica) websites as explained in my blog article entitled “How Unlimited access to Government of Jamaica Websites heralds Electronic Transactions and Mobile Money”. 

Smart City Initiative - New Kingston and Montego Bay Guinea Pig for connected communities

But there is more to this free Wi-Fi initiative.

The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology is also pushing to establish the idea of Smart Cities, with New Kingston as the guinea pig as noted in the article “More Free Wi-Fi Hotspots Coming”, published Thursday December 1, 2016, The Jamaica Gleaner.

The Smart City initiative will be rolled out in Q3 of 2017. Regular visitors to New Kingston will be able to use the Free Wi-Fi in the area, which will be powered by a consortium of companies including JPS Co and Digicel, whose Fiber Optic capacity is being used to power the CAP in the area as noted in the article “Digicel fibre network to help create 'smart cities' in Jamaica”, published Wednesday, December 03, 2014, The Jamaica Observer .

JPS Co has already begun installing self-dimming LED Street lights in the New Kingston since November 2016 to quote Director of Corporate Communications Winsome Callum: “More than 200 LED street lights have been installed in the New Kingston area in the last two weeks as part of the first phase of introducing a smart street lighting system in New Kingston. Over the next two months, smart modules will be installed to facilitate remote management, automatic dimming, etc”.

There may also be plan for a traffic management system in collaboration with the NWA (National Works Agency) and is set to be launched in Q3 of 2017.

Back in November 2014, the plan was originally for Montego Bay to become the first smart city as noted in the article “Mo-Bay on Track to Become First ‘Smart City’”, published November 27, 2014 By Marlon Tingling, The Jamaica Information Service.

Albeit they may not achieve Smart city status by 2017, they will definitely have the first demonstration smarthouse, again built by JPS Co, to quote Winsome Callum: “It is not likely to be for 2017”

However, New Kingston, which is a part of Kingston, may benefit immensely from the Smart city Status as the free Wi-Fi and other connected services would boost the foot traffic and thus increase entrepreneur occupancy in the business district.  
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