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USF to establish more community access points

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Universal Service Fund (USF) will be setting up more Community Access Points (CAP) across the island this year.

Director of Projects at the agency, Kwan Wilson, tells JIS News that St James and Portland are among rural areas being targeted for new sites.

He says that the Fund will also be looking at increasing the number of free Wi-Fi zones in a drive to facilitate greater Internet access for Jamaicans. Secured, public hotspots are already available in high traffic areas in Kingston and St Andrew, Manchester, and St Elizabeth.

The USF has, over the years, established over 300 CAP sites in an effort to bring information communications technologies (ICT) to underserved areas in Jamaica.

These locations enable citizens to use the Internet at minimal or no cost for research, bill payments, educational purposes, communication, business, marketing, and social networking.
Wilson tells JIS News that the CAP sites are making a positive impact.

“Based on our assessments, which we started in November last year, we have seen where these sites have had an impact on persons from the primary level to the golden agers,” he says, noting that the assessments will continue this year.

He shares that among the most frequent users of the facilities are persons completing school assignments or doing research.

“There are also persons, who are doing business, who may need to (utilise the Internet) to order goods and communicate with customers,” he notes.

The USF forms partnerships with churches, community groups, and public and public sector entities in the setting up of CAP sites.

Among them is the Bethel Baptist in Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew, where a cyber centre is in operation.

Administrator at the facility, Judith Anderson, says that the centre offers training in basic Microsoft office suite, use of the Internet, and sending and receiving emails.

She says that the basic computer training is in recognition that there are persons, who do not know how to use the device properly.

“They have a smart phone and they can do certain things with it, but they do not know how to use a laptop or desktop, so we are trying to assist anybody of any age or background to learn how to use a computer,” she says.

“People need to understand that being able to use a computer is now of paramount importance and even your ability to get a job may very well rest on you being able to use a computer,” she adds.

“The reality is if you travel overseas, when you hit whichever country, especially if it's a first-world country, the first thing you have to do is use a computer in order for you to access immigration, as you are just sent to a machine to do your fingerprinting, take your photo and enter your passport information into the system,” she notes further.

In addition to the basic computer courses, Anderson says the centre also offers training in graphic design, social media marketing and quick books accounting, which she notes, are ideal for small entrepreneurs. She tells JIS News that the centre is looking to venture into coding.

Additionally, services such as printing, scanning, faxing, binding and laminating are available.

Classes are offered in the evenings, while other services are available on Saturdays.

The administrator tells JIS News that the centre also provides an after-school programme and facilitates students doing their school-based assessments (SBA).

The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) is one of the USF's largest partners, offering broadband service to its users for educational and entertainment purposes, through its network of parish libraries.

Acting Deputy Director, Database and Networks, JLS, Adrian Gilman, says that persons may use their own device or those available at the libraries to access the internet free of cost.
He notes that the primary users are students doing SBAs.

Manager of the Cassia Park Community Centre CAP site in St. Andrew, Michael Lawson, tells JIS News that the location accommodates students doing homework and projects, offering them the first hour of Internet usage free of cost.

The USF is the Government agency mandated to ensure access to ICT tools to facilitate development.

The Fund welcomes applications for new CAP sites.

—JIS


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