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By Carlena Knight

Free hotspots will be set up in areas with poor internet connectivity to help students complete homework assignments and other schoolwork.

Assessments will have to be made to identify those communities in need of internet access for the nation’s youth, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said yesterday.

He told Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing that evaluations will be conducted by employees in his department to this end, and that they will be working closely with ministry of education technocrats who will be providing pertinent information as to who may need this service.

“It will be done by evaluation, and I am going to rely on the input from both the ministry of education and from the parliamentary representatives. Wherever there are gaps and they can be identified we will look into it and provide resources in those particular areas,” he said.

“It is not going to be based on the sole evaluation of the ministry of technology, but clearly if the parliamentary representative and the ministry of education have an insight into where there may be a gap with students who don’t have access to internet, we will respond in those areas faster,” Nicholas pledged.

He mentioned that discussions will have to take place over the exclusivity of these hotspots, and if they would be made available for other members of the community too. An adequate centralised location in the community to install these hotspots will also be looked at.

Nicholas also gave an update on the implementation of internet in primary schools.

“Each of them has a minimum of 10 megabits per second. Most of it is not done with fibre, so the optimal position is to ensure that we have a fibre running in which case we can increase or even index the speed at which it is delivered, and so from that standpoint, we are working to improve the delivery of internet access within the primary schools,” he explained.

“It is no way comparable to what was done for the secondary schools. The intention was prior to Covid to have a staged IT roll out for the public schools, and primary schools would have been lower down the totem pole, but because of Covid now…the need to have better internet access in those primary schools has become important and urgent. So, my ministry is working alongside APUA to deliver better speed and service within the remaining 31 primary schools.”

Regarding internet access in Barbuda, Nicholas said there are still some issues to be ironed out.

“Barbuda has a particular challenge. The network is in place in Barbuda but the net speed, the link between Barbuda and Antigua is a cause for concern in terms of how much capacity can be delivered,” he continued.

“If my memory serves me correctly, they are only at 50 megabits per second. Many of the other secondary schools have one gig of capacity so we are going to ensure that Barbuda gets up to that speed, but it is limited by the amount of capacity that exists currently between both islands, and as soon as we have a turn on that, we should be able to improve the quantity or the capacity that is available in not only the public secondary schools, but the primary schools as well,” Nicholas added.

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