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‘Country people deserve good things’

Free Wi-Fi expected to bring benefits to Mocho

Published:Tuesday | March 15, 2022 | 12:06 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Students celebrate the community Wi-Fi in Stewarton Square, Mocho, Clarendon, last Thursday.
Students celebrate the community Wi-Fi in Stewarton Square, Mocho, Clarendon, last Thursday.
Celebrating the occasion of community Wi-Fi in Mocho, Clarendon, are (from left) Ainsworth Kelly, guidance counsellor, Lennon High School; Romaine Morris, councillor, Mocho Division; Robert Morgan, member of parliament, Clarendon North Central; Daniel Dawe
Celebrating the occasion of community Wi-Fi in Mocho, Clarendon, are (from left) Ainsworth Kelly, guidance counsellor, Lennon High School; Romaine Morris, councillor, Mocho Division; Robert Morgan, member of parliament, Clarendon North Central; Daniel Dawes, chief executive officer, USF; and Leon Clair, principal, Brixton Hill Primary School.
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Bringing Mocho, Clarendon, on par with urban areas is how Robert Nesta Morgan, member of parliament for Clarendon North Central, likened the launch of free community Wi-Fi in the Stewarton area of the rural community on Thursday. The free Wi-Fi venture, spearheaded by the Universal Service Fund (USF), should span 189 communities upon completion.

Morgan, who was the keynote speaker at the launch, emphasised the importance of equity in society, stating that people in rural areas should have equal access to resources as those in urban areas.

“Country people deserve good things, because there’s this thinking in Jamaica – in Kingston and some other places – that places like Mocho are ‘back-a-wall’ and ‘back bush’, and the people are not sophisticated and them nuh bright ... which is not true,” Morgan said during his address.

“I don’t feel good when I’m in Kingston and see everybody on their devices and kids are downloading things, and I get calls from people, people in my constituency [saying], ‘We don’t have any Internet,’“ he continued.

Describing the initiative as an amazing development, Morgan added, “It’s a way to bring technology into the community so people feel a part of what their Government is doing. It is very important that in everything we do as a government, that all segments of the country benefit from it,” he posited.

PIONEER MOVE

Romaine Morris, councillor for the Mocho Division, said the initiative is a developmental boost for Mocho. “This, without a doubt, will put Mocho upfront as a pioneer ... .” he said. Morris told The Gleaner that the lack of Internet access recently hurdled employment opportunities for more than 100 Mocho youth.

“In recent times, persons would have been interested in working from home, and because of the lack of Internet, persons couldn’t participate. We had 180-something posts that were available at a particular call centre, and when they came for the recruitment drive, only 37 persons were able to participate,” he disclosed.

SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

USF Chief Executive Officer Daniel Dawes said his team has a mandate to provide Internet access, particularly to “unserved and undeserved areas”. He added that the venture was particularly important, given the woes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Dawes said, “While we move from one community to the other, it provides for me a sense of accomplishment in that the unserved areas, particularly the rural and inner-city areas, can now have access to the Internet.” Dawes told The Gleaner that over 100 communities have so far benefited under the free community Wi-Fi programme.

Principal of Richmond Park Primary School Delwyn Gordon is grateful for the initiative. He told The Gleaner that Internet woes were at the helm of the challenges the school faced during distance learning, as only some 60 per cent of his students were able to access classes. Gordon said that while some students had access to devices, they were handicapped by connectivity issues.

“The curriculum that they’re accessing now is one that relies heavily on technology, so with this (Wi-Fi) in the community, those students who had challenges buying data to access (the Internet) will be able to access this service free of cost,” said Gordon.

Excited community folk who gathered at the site gave shouts of commendations as the ‘Free community Wi-Fi’ sign was unveiled. Christoval Lopez, who operates a bar next to the site, said she was elated for the resource, and is expecting that it will also bring more customers to her business.

Stewarton is the second Clarendon North Central community to receive free Wi-Fi under the programme. Chapelton was gifted the commodity service in December 2020. It was announced that Mocho Square and Rock River would be the next areas to benefit.

olivia.brown@gleanerjm.com