Jamaica Gleaner / The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology on Wednesday commissioned its first solar-powered community computer laboratory in Sterling Castle, St Andrew, enabling community members to access the Internet and other services at no cost.

The Internet cafÈ, dubbed ‘The Link – Sterling Castle’, was made possible through a partnership with the Universal Service Fund (USF), an agency of the ministry, and the FLOW Foundation, at a cost of $7.8 million.

Speaking at the commissioning of the centre, portfolio minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, said that ‘The Link’ would unlock

a world of possibilities for community members through increased access to the Internet. He added that the facility’s impact will be even more significant, as the community will not be burdened with the cost of

the energy required to operate the centre.

HIGH ELECTRICITY COSTS “We are approaching the ‘300 mark’ in terms of the number

of community access points (cybercafÈs) established across the island by the USF, and

in conducting our audit of these facilities, one of the challenges identified was the high cost of electricity. In some cases, the high energy costs caused centres to reduce their operating hours or

even close their doors,” Wheatley said.

The minister added that in response to these challenges, the ministry will outfit 100 community access points with solar systems by March 31, 2017, and several other sites during the next financial year.

While the USF provided funding for the centre’s infrastructure, Internet service, signage, and a general facelift, inclusive of a fresh coat of paint were courtesy of the FLOW Foundation.

Executive Chairman of the Foundation Errol Miller said that his organisation’s partnership with the Universal Service Fund was one of its most important relationships.

“Working as a team, with our combined resources, we are better able to roll out cyber centres, such as this one in Sterling Castle, that are fully equipped in every regard so that the beneficiaries have very little to do but turn on their computers and start working,” Miller said.

‘The Link – Sterling Castle’ project comprised the installation of 15 desktop computer units, one server unit, two multifunctional inkjet printers, workstations, AC units, a projector and projector screen, as well as a wireless router and two UPS units.

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