Thu | Dec 2, 2021

Dr Andrew O. Wheatley | Culture and Wi-Fi in daily life

Published:Thursday | December 24, 2020 | 12:11 AM
Andrew Wheatley
Andrew Wheatley

Today it seems almost impossible to live without your TV, mobile phone, and computer.

Yesterday we could not live without the car, landline phone, radio, the secretary/assistant.

The day before that we were obsessed with getting to work, school, enjoying holidays by the beach or in the country, going shopping … and more.

Back to now, and all of the above can be achieved by the electronic connectivity called Internet, which is facilitated by wireless technology, and wireless technology is made possible by the transistor, the greatest invention in our lifetime.

Indeed, the Internet and Wi-Fi access are considered highly important to us today and are completely essential to our day-to-day living.

We just can’t take a break from our obsession with access to the online world, whether it be for social contact (from a safe distance), to check our emails, to Google information on anything and everything, or for the up-to-date world news as it happens.


An octogenarian reflects on how he used the slate at primary school, before moving on to lead pencil and exercise books. For him, in those days ‘online’ meant to write on the single-lined paper, having graduated from the double-line paper which kept your penmanship in check. Today, he says, “These children not only can’t write, it looks like they don’t need to. With the computer in front of them all they do is type and not even in proper English. They use all kinds of shortcut spellings, which is far short of the official international English language which they’ll need to get ahead!”

Despite the fact that many of us experienced life before Wi-Fi, it has become virtually impossible to imagine our personal and working lives without it. Being connected to the Internet means we can achieve things far quicker and more efficiently than in the past:

MAIL: Handwritten letters sent via post have been overtaken by emails and texts.

BANKING: Lengthy lines in the bank are replaced by online banking.

LIBRARY: Trips to the library have been replaced by now instant book downloads onto a Kindle or iPad. Information can now be accessed via search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

SHOPPING: Online stores are more convenient and online payments have been made easy.

COMMUNICATING: One of the more notable changes of the post-Internet era is the way people choose to communicate with one another. Those with access to Internet connection are able to instantly chat or email their family and friends across the globe. International friendships are far easier, online dating is now possible, and people are able to create their own personalised websites to reflect their interests. Notably, many meet their life partners via the Internet.

DATA: The Internet also began to function as a historic database, storing mind-boggling amounts of publicly accessible data. This is proving invaluable in crime-fighting as Internet connectivity has increased immediate access to camera footage, police records, etc. Police can now use their mobile devices to instantly track criminal records and view sensor networks capable of picking up the location of perpetrators. More recently in some jurisdictions, law enforcement is using aerial drones, microcomputers, and biometric technology.


Once the world got a taste of the Internet, there was no slowing down. As more and more people came online, the demand for easier access and an improved service increased, and it is now in homes, workplaces, and the public can be facilitated by installation of Wi-Fi ‘hotspots’ or boosters.


As Wi-Fi technology continues to develop, the potential to improve ourselves and our society steadily increases.

Social media is also playing a vital role in crime reduction and the improvement of emergency services: police are using social media to engage and inform the public on various issues. With many Jamaicans on social accounts with presumably hundreds of friends/followers/connections social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) has begun to function as an emergency outlet to inform, alert and seek help.

Healthcare anywhere anytime is now available through telemedicine. Surveys have revealed that over 90 per cent of persons suffering from non-communicable diseases prefer this mode of care when possible, as they all have smartphones and the telemedicine visit is less costly, with reduced waiting times and the long lines for service, especially in the public health facilities. The healthcare delivery team is also very supportive of shifting delivery of care in favour of these distance Internet-enabled modalities.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, USA, there is already a variety of applications that use and rely on Wi-Fi in the healthcare industry, including infusion pumps, oxygen monitoring devices, and smart beds, alongside access to electronic medical records (EMRs) and real-time access to X-rays and MRI scans. They also stated that medical telepresence delivered via Wi-Fi helps scale provision of high-quality healthcare to remote and underserved areas. With real-time location services, healthcare establishments can also monitor the position of staff and the use of resources around a hospital building in order to improve efficiency.


In addition to individual industries, whole cities are now becoming connected. The benefits of creating a Wi-Fi solution for an entire geographic location are an attractive proposition for both city managers and citizens. Smart cities that incorporate digital technologies to generate huge amounts of data can use this information to improve various industries and services within the city, such as retail, public transport, facilities, airports, hospitals, schools, advertising, and more.

There’s no doubt that Wi-Fi has changed the world and we must change with it. The possibilities are truly endless!

Dr Andrew O. Wheatley is a senior lecturer/research scientist and member of parliament for South Central St Catherine.