“Digital revolution” to reach Bahamian schools

Julian Anderson, Deputy Director (Acting) of Technology & Innovation in the Ministry of Education.

Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd said Thursday in a telephone interview with a local radio station, that his ministry is preparing to upgrade all schools in the country to broadband services, injecting millions of dollars into the education system if approved by Cabinet.

According to Deputy Director (Acting) of Technology & Innovation in the Ministry of Education Julian Anderson, the project will begin in the southern islands: Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay (MICAL), which will be prepped with broadband and WiFi first. The upgrade he said will end with the installation of internet services in schools in New Providence.

“Initially, schools were given free internet by the government (FNM) in 1992,” Anderson told Eyewitness News.

“The government mandated that the service providers grant the schools free internet. They basically got 10 milli-bytes per second at that time; that’s DSL (dial-up service).”

But with technology ever changing, Anderson alluded to the fact that the ministry plans to stay abreast through the proposed upgrades.

“We plan to upgrade every single school in The Bahamas from DSL to fiber-optic,” he said.

Providing some insight into the challenges schools face when it comes to advancement, Anderson said, schools are not designed to house the hard-wire.

“Schools did whatever they could do to manage that 10 mili-bytes per second but, it was still not sufficient bandwidth per school,” Anderson explained.

And, as hardwiring every campus in The Bahamas will be very costly, his department, he said, worked consistently to find another avenue.

The department’s solution? Wi Fi for all school campuses.

According to Anderson, Wi Fi availability in schools with large land masses like R.M Bailey, will not only provide more ease for teachers, but parents too will benefit from this improvement, as the installation will create a way to manage students use of social media.

“If a child come to school and brings a tablet … they have the ability, if it’s not managed, to utilize their cameras to video tape…,” he said.

“With the Wi Fi, it now means the devices that we presently have, would need to upgrade … to have a Wi Fi network card in it so the desktop computers will be able to access the Wi Fi.”

Additionally,  Anderson told Eyewitness News that the ministry is also looking at using more “mobile devices such as a laptops and tablets”.

It is estimated that the Wi-Fi venture will cost taxpayers some $17.2 million. Hoping to garner public-private partnership (PPP), Anderson said the proposal was submitted to Cabinet a few weeks back.

“We will be able to do all of the installations on the Family Islands within about 12 to 18 months (if approved),” Anderson confirmed.

The ministry, he said, also plans to add virtual learning in every classroom on the Family Islands.