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First solar powered community computer lab commissioned in Sterling Castle

Published:Thursday | December 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley (right) is all smiles as he is joined by chairman of the Universal Service Fund, Robert Lawrence, in surveying the solar panels installed as part of the recently commissioned ‘The Link- Sterling Castle’ project.
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Andrew Wheatley (centre) is joined by executive chairman of the FLOW Foundation, Errol Miller (right), and chairman of the Universal Service Fund, Robert Lawrence, in the commissioning of ‘The Link – Sterling Castle’.

The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology has created history with the commissioning of its first solar-powered community computer laboratory. Located in Sterling Castle, St Andrew, the facility enables community members to access the Internet and other information communications technology (ICT) services at no cost.

The Internet cafe, 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.

Speaking at the commissioning of the centre, portfolio minister Andrew Wheatley, said '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.

"We are approaching the 300 mark in terms of number of community access points (cyber cafes) 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, 2018, 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 made available courtesy of the Flow Foundation.

Executive chairman of the Flow Foundation, Errol Miller, said his organisation's partnership with the USF is 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 to 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, projector and projector screen, as well as a wireless router and two UPS units.

The centre was also equipped with a grid-tied solar system, with excess solar energy generated from the setup to be sold back to the grid.

The one-year project was completed in December at a cost of $7.8 million.