St. John’s Antigua- It’s all about innovation, entrepreneurship, job creation and sustainability. That’s how government describes the remaining three components of the multi-million dollar Government Assisted Technology Endeavour (GATE) project to be achieved in partnership with telecommunications giant Digicel.
Telecommunications Minister Dr Edmond Mansoor said the components are – 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity for government under the expanded e-Government drive; a multipurpose ICT training facility and special needs resource centre and; 6,000 tablets (computers) for Antiguan & Barbudan students.
The five-year connectivity to government on the 4G LTE platform from Digicel is valued at $11.9 million, Dr Mansoor said.
“We will light the platform with Digicel in the fourth quarter of this year and every single sector – education, government, tourism, banking offshore services, the social fabric of our country – will change,” he said Thursday at a press conference to launch the remaining components of the GATE project.
The first component of GATE, launched a month ago, is an ICT Cadet programme, which provides an opportunity for young people interested in working in information technology (IT) related fields to acquire technical skills and valuable workplace experience.
“We will give the public the assurance that we, as a government, will utilise this platform to make our country better to make the way government interacts with the citizens better, and to make Antigua & Barbuda the number one technology destination in the hemisphere,” the admittedly happy minister said.
Detailing how the components would be delivered, and not in any particular order, he said, “One thousand dongles will be provisioned with 4G LTE connectivity and we will make sure the top 1,000 people in government get trained in the use of this technology and more importantly, will have access to the government platforms and have access to the Internet 24/7/365.”
Remote government offices would also receive broadband connectivity.
Additionally, Dr Mansoor stated, “I am pleased to tell the prime minister that the new international airport will also be fully 4G LTE enabled, enabling businessmen to conduct business while they go though our airport.”
Under the initiative, government would also be able to deploy e-government solutions at revenue collection points and at locations where government provides its services to the public, including the passport office, immigration department, High Court, and the like.
However, he hastened to add that the initiative would also allow for connectivity in other non-government areas as he explained there are plans to exploit the technology for closed circuit TV purposes, not only for government purposes but also for use in the private sector.
Meantime, the minister said he and Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer have had discussions with “friendly governments” about funding an additional 6,000 tablets for young Antiguan and Barbudan students, as another component of the connectivity drive.
And, that would be delivered with pre-negotiated connectivity with Digicel, applicable for a five-year period.
GATE’s final and fourth component is the multipurpose ICT training facility and special needs resource centre, which would be constructed by Digicel, in the Michael’s Mount area.
“This facility is going to be located close to the Mary E Pigott School or perhaps right in the vacant plot of land next to the Ottos Comprehensive School,” Dr Mansoor said. “It is intended that this particular facility will serve the Seventh Day Adventist school, which has something like 780 students; the Mary E Pigott School with 400 plus students; the Ottos Comprehensive School with 761 students; plus the Baptiste Academy which has approximately 400 plus students, the Minoah Magnet with 170 plus students and St John’s Lutheran School.”
In addition to those institutions, Mount St John’s Medical Centre and the adjacent Holy Family Cathedral Church would also fall in the “catchment area” covering over 3,000 people.
As such, he opined that the medical centre could be repositioned as a leading centre for telemedicine.
As for the special needs resource centre to be housed in the ICT training facility, he said it would be specifically designed to enhance the ICT training of adults and children with special needs including those who are physically, aurally and visually challenged.
Further, the telecommunications minister said, “This is where we are going to help young people with autism and dyslexia and we will work with all the various interest groups to make sure we get this particular facility correct when it comes to looking after those individuals with those types of challenges.”
PM Spencer and Finance Minister Harold Lovell, who were present at the launch, said they were very pleased when the partnership was struck with the aim of enhancing Antigua & Barbuda’s technological infrastructure.
The prime minister described the advances as “a revolution of epic proportions.”