Tue | Feb 18, 2020

JUTC Wi-Fi usage suggests data privacy concerns fading, says Growth Tech CEO

Published:Monday | February 4, 2019 | 12:23 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Neil Lawrence

With more than 100,000 passengers connecting to the free Wi-Fi service on Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses over the last five months, the company installing the devices believes data-privacy fears, which surfaced among commuters before the project began, have been subsiding.

“There is no doubt that you will have a few persons uncomfortable using their phones in public. You will never get around that. You have people who don’t even want to use their phones when they go to the supermarket,” said Neil Lawrence, CEO of Growth Tech Limited. “What we are seeing in the numbers is that people are using their phones [to access the service] anyway. They are not concerned about that. The fear about safety that was raised before is clearly not an issue on the buses.”

The installation of Wi-Fi devices on roughly 400 buses that operate within the Corporate Area and St Catherine is still in infancy, although the project was scheduled to be completed by December 2018. Approximately 30 per cent of the 400 buses, around 120 buses, have been outfitted with Wi-Fidevices so far.

Lawrence says the missed deadline is due in part to some buses not being in good condition and the technical team wants to make sure the service, once installed, works properly.

“Buses come off the road sometimes because of issues. ... We have a strategy where we aim for the most reliable buses as much as possible,” he said.

“We have had a few issues with the hardware, where we added a few components to optimize the service on it.

Being the first time Jamaica is rolling out this type of Wi-Fi technology to a mass of persons, obviously there will be some learning. We have learned and have adjusted,” he explained.

“[We could] just go and install and fit a box and say, ‘Hey, Gleaner, we have installed all the Wi-Fi in the buses’, then when you check it, there are issues.

Being the captain of the ship, I won’t put something forward unless I am comfortable.”

Lawrence, who said customer feedback has been positive, indicated that the company is aiming to outfit 75 per cent of the buses by next month and complete the project by April. JUTC Communications Manager Cecil Thoms yesterday acknowledged the issues affecting the roll-out of the service.

“We had some kinks. Persons, for example, would have complained about not being able to get on from time to time, so we are working on that. Sometimes it is a case-by-case basis that we have to resolve. We are hoping there is no significant fallout,” he told The Gleaner.

“Essentially, we had some kinks, but we have since been able to address those. We are now projecting that by the end of the financial year, there will be a complete installation of Wi-Fi on all buses.

That is the agreement with our partner and after that its full speed ahead and then there will be a launch,” Thoms said.