Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Flow - advancing education through technology

Published:Friday | January 18, 2013 | 1:00 AM
The Columbus team (from left); Niall Sheehy, regional vice-president, Columbus Business Solutions; Steve McKenzie, regional sales director for carrier and multinational accounts; Michele English, president and COO for Flow; Ben Buls, sales manager - hospitality sector; and Brendan Paddick, chairman and CEO of Columbus Communications Inc. - File photos
Denise Williams, Flow's director of corporate communications.
Michele English, chief operations officer at Flow.

Today, we continue to profile companies that have been nominated for the prestigious 2012 Gleaner Honour Award. Flow has been nominated in the category of education.

Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited, the operator of Flow and Columbus Business Solutions, has made a dedicated commitment to give back to the communities it serves in Jamaica.

With a mission to demonstrate good corporate citizenship through sustained activities that help develop communities and build the nation, the company has been making significant contribution in the areas of education through technology, arts and culture, sports, and community partnering.

Since its inception in 2006, Columbus Communications has invested millions in its vast number of social initiatives. 'Building Leaders/Education Through Technology Programme' was developed from the beginning to ensure that Jamaican students and teachers access the latest tools and technology in the e-learning process.

As such, the company donates free-of- cost, commercial-grade Internet to all communities where there is Flow service, and now provides Internet and educational cable connections to over 150 schools at a cost that exceeds $33 million a year.

"We are committed to the social and economic development of Jamaica and demonstrate this by providing the infrastructure that delivers access to the technology needed to thrust education in Jamaica forward," said Denise Williams, director of corporate communications.

"The capacity and reliability of our broadband technology enhances the delivery of teaching and learning, and enables the innovation among our teachers and students that will build the next generation of great thinkers, entrepreneurs and nation builders," she said. "The greater use of technology in education ensures that all our students have an equal opportunity to become future leaders."

60,000 students benefiting

Donating computers, giving access to educational hardware and software, mentoring, and specific skills instruction, today, more than 60,000 students and over 9,000 teachers are benefiting from the initiative.

In May 2012, the broadband wide area network to power Jamaica's national e-learning programme was launched. Sixty-one sites with 100mpbs of Internet installed now enable resource sharing between educational institutions across the island.

At a session held at Oracabessa High School in St Mary, Flow, along with members of the national e-learning programme and Universal Access Fund, demonstrated practical applications of the technology, with students and teachers being taught via simultaneous, virtual presentations in four separate locations.

"I am pleased to see the full utilisation of IT (information technology) being incorporated under the e-Learning Jamaica project in the teaching and learning environment," Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell had said at the time.

Vital element

He added that the project is "a vital element in the Government's strategy to transform the country and achieve sustained development," and "the use of modern methodologies in the classroom is a natural move towards enhancing the educational process."

Students at the connected schools will be able to access the data bank hosted on the servers and review pre-recorded lectures and take online examinations at their leisure, while teachers will benefit from technologies such as videoconferencing and virtual training sessions - simultaneously.

Some students in the programme have already begun to show positive improvement in their grades, which is a testament to the benefits of incorporating digital tools in the learning process.

Flow has partnered with several private organisations and service clubs, including Rotary Clubs, for national youth leadership initiatives. The company is also a major partner of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica's Youth Upliftment Through Employment programme, to help train and provide employment opportunities for youth in the inner city. In addition, a partnership was forged with the Go-GSAT software company to ensure that more parents, teachers and students can access this world-renowned assessment software that continues to have an impact on students' performance.

$25 million investment

Last year, the organisation invested $25 million in Hope Zoo's brand-new Learning and Resource Centre.

Another of the company's undertakings was to assist the Canadian International Development Agency to bring in Polycom telepresence devices to deliver videoconferencing technology to enable a cultural exchange programme between three schools in Jamaica and three schools in Canada. Currently in its pilot phase, the programme is paving the way for other schools to incorporate digital tools in the teaching and learning process, the exchange of best practices and real-time interaction with schools anywhere in the world.

New Day Primary and Junior High School is one of the many schools that have immensely benefited from Flow's commitment to education development.

Principal Garfield McDonald said the teachers and students now have the means and opportunity to do research and gather the necessary information for projects, homework and class work, as well as connect with others around the world.

"Flow has helped to enhance the different educational tools we have here, and has helped to contribute significantly to information gathering and learning," said McDonald.

"As a small institution, we could never have paid for this. I must also commend them for the excellent service they provide that is always fast and always connected. They are always on the ball and ensure quality. I can't say enough about it, it is indeed a wonderful piece of tool."

Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited, a subsidiary of Columbus Communications International, continues to make significant contributions to Jamaica, investing almost US$350 million to date in the overall operations.

Flow was the first company to offer converged technology to Jamaica, making a profound and indelible impact on the local telecommunications industry, and placing Jamaica as a regional industry leader for data connectivity and innovative digital products.

With its dynamic triple play of services - digital cable television, digital landline and blazing speed Internet - and through its brands Flow for residential services and Columbus Business Solutions for business services, Columbus Communications enables the development of a tech-savvy, digital, knowledge-based society as Jamaicans forge ahead to keep apace with the latest global technological trends.

Jamaica is now the only country in the region with a direct undersea fibre-optic connection to the United States and South America. Its regional subsea fibre-optic network touches 22 countries in the region and carries over 60 per cent of all Internet traffic in the Caribbean.

Today, Flow's network delivers broadband services to 50 per cent of homes in Jamaica.



As a small institution, we could never have paid for this. I must also commend them for the excellent service they provide that is always fast and always connected. They are always on the ball and ensure quality. I can't say enough about it, it is indeed a wonderful piece of tool. - Principal of the New Day Primary and Junior High School Garfield McDonald