Internet Access to Rural Schools & Small Businesses
Dr. Emanuel Finn
The Minister for Public Works and the Digital Economy presented to Parliament on November 2nd, 2020 that Government has obtained Parliamentary approval to borrow in excess of EC $77 million for the development of the digital economy in Dominica. This is good news but only if the Minister also could be more explicit and detailed in explaining just how government plans to spend and allocate the monies in achieving this goal.
But we have to encourage and support the Minister because his messaging is on the right track and timely. Today the business of the world is Information Technology and the test of any business, economy or country's development plan hinges on the ability to send, receive and acquire information quickly and efficiently- Digital economy. It is clear that internet communications services provide new opportunities for business, to educate our children and to widen our knowledge of the world and take advantage of its vast potential systems and opportunities.
The caveat is simple: In Dominica, these expanded learning and business opportunities that the internet provides are available to people in more affluent homes and to those who can afford access to the information superhighway. Schools and homes where there are computers and the internet will have children who have access to a faster, wider and up-to-date body of knowledge. Provide technology access to schools and small businesses and thrive; hold back and stall and stagnate.' This obvious 'unwritten' rule presents the possibility of a digital divide with rural school children who do not have computers, and whose parents cannot afford computers: and other school children who have access to computers and the internet.
By having internet access, children can have unlimited libraries at their fingertips. They can download information in real time thus increasing the pace of learning. The opportunity of using the internet as part and parcel of the education curriculum today is extraordinary and its implications are far-reaching. The simple fact is that some schools and children will be empowered by technology while others will be left behind. The internet has revolutionized the ways students are reached and taught.
As I understand the situation in rural school in Dominica today schools have limited access to internet services. The question is; does every child has access to a lab top, computer or tablet to access the internet in these schools? I suppose that answer is no or not yet.
As the senator talked so eloquently about the creation and transformation of a digital economy, I would hope it would mean providing the 20 or so students in the hamlet of Morne Juane school and the 60 plus students at the Jones Beaupierre school in La Plaine and elsewhere with ready technical support and computer devices.
The Senator either failed or forgot to mention how he is planning to collaborate with his colleagues' i.e., the Ministers of education to present an education, Agriculture and others to coordinate this roll out. Maybe the dedicated policy makers and their leadership in the various ministries have a plan already to do just that. Or do they? And if so, have they clearly communicated that the Senator or to whoever makes the final decisions.
77 Million EC dollars is a lot of money Mr. Senator and so we will be very interesting to see how this money is spent and invested. We sure hope the ambitious digital economy plan will include robust segments offering better choices and technical resources for these rural schools, communities and small businesses.
The Senator told parliament 'Investing in the digital economy will modernize the economy, increase productivity, enhance efficiency and improve the ease of doing business index through the use of modern technologies across all spheres of the public and private sectors. By creating a more deeply integrated and dynamic digital economy, digitally empowered citizens, businesses and institutions, Dominica will chart a new path". Well these are generics and speaking points Mr. Senator but we early await your detailed logistics roll out implementation plan. This should not be about petty politics and gamesmanship, but rather about the future of Dominica and our ability to compete with the best and brightest. Also to contribute efficiently and effectively to the local, regional and global marketplace today and tomorrow. We need to address these problems and challenges in order to ensure that no rural district or child is left behind.
We need to ensure that all Dominican school children are able to benefit from this high-tech reality. Invariably, we need to ensure that no one or community or small business on Dominica is left behind regardless of their personal and or political affiliations.