Sunday 16 June, 2019

Free Wi-Fi to make New Kingston J'ca's first ‘smart city' - Wheatley

Dr Andrew Wheatley

Dr Andrew Wheatley

Science and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley is promising Jamaicans more free public access to Wi-Fi this year, with the business district of New Kingston set to become the country’s first ‘smart city’.

Wheatley made the disclosure on Tuesday as he made his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, where he vowed to push the science portfolio aspect of his ministry - which he said had long been neglected. 

The trained scientist said he intends to make a difference in this regard.

In terms of connecting more Jamaicans to the internet, Wheatley said: “In this coming year more, free public Wi-Fi in public spaces will be available to our citizens in a variety of ways.”

He said his ministry was “looking to extend our reach in rural Jamaica …we are looking to go into Annotto Bay, Brown’s Town…we’re going to ensure that we connect every single nook and cranny of Jamaica.”

Wheatley told the House that by the end of the year, a majority of Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses in the Corporate Area will be fully equipped with free public Wi-Fi. He said every JUTC bus will be a hotspot…at no cost to the government. The service, to be rolled out by Growth Tech Limited, should be on the buses by next month.

Growth Tech will partner with telecommunications giant Digicel, via its superfast LTE network, to provide the service.

As it relates to New Kingston and its environs, Dr Wheatley said: “We will also be rolling out free Wi-Fi in Emancipation Park.” He said it should come on stream in a matter of weeks.

The science and technology minister described the development as “the most exciting public Wi-Fi deployment to come on stream.” He noted that it was going to be seen as part of the continuing smart city initiative in the New Kingston area.

“It is our intention to establish the New Kingston area as the island’s first smart city,” he stated.

The Minister said this will be done with the combined efforts of his Ministry, the Jamaica Public Service Company and the National Works Agency, in conjunction with private sector partners. He revealed that work has already begun to this end as the JPS, over the past two years, has been implementing a “smart grid and intelligent lighting in that space.”

“The next move is to blanket the entire Knutsford Boulevard corridor, from Oxford Road to Trafalgar Road with intelligent Wi-Fi,” Wheatley said.

He told the House that he will shortly be tabling for Cabinet consideration a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Jamaica and Cisco Systems to implement a “proof of concept to demonstrate this intelligent Wi-Fi platform.”

The Minister asserted that this approach will open numerous opportunities for local companies and innovators to provide new and enhanced services to anyone doing business, travelling through or dining along the Knutsford Boulevard.

“The goal is to establish an intelligent corridor where people can safely use their devices with high speed Internet free of cost.”

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