PRESS RELEASE – THE Republic of China (Taiwan) is piloting two projects in Saint Lucia that will revolutionize the island’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) network, create new opportunities in the sector and bring Internet connectivity to three-quarters of the population.
The first project which run for five years ending December 2012 at a cost to Taiwan of US$1.2 million is already bridging Saint Lucia’s digital divide and positioning the island to create ICT economic opportunities in the same way that Taiwan has done for itself.
This ICT project was a joint undertaking between Taiwan’s Technical Cooperation Department Fund (ICDF) and Saint Lucia’s Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting.
Under this project, a National ICT Center was established in Castries, computer classes provided in Gros Islet and new systems implemented in the Ministry of Agriculture, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force and the Ministry of Transport to improve services to the public.
Still ongoing and expected to be completed by the end of 2018 is the establishment of a Government Island-wide Network (GINet) in which Taiwan is spending another US$3.2 million with counterpart funding of US$0.72 million from the Saint Lucia government.
This project being executed by the ICDF and Saint Lucia’s Ministry of the Public Service will be far-reaching, touching the lives of 112,000 people in Castries, Vieux Fort, Dennery, Micoud and Canaries in a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) and catering to the general public, tourists and the business sector with
63 “hot spots” or wireless access points being installed in 33 locations in the five mentioned districts.
According to the Taiwanese Embassy here, the project will establish an island-wide wireless backbone network with redundant connectivity to existing fibre optic networks, support the telecommunications needs of the government in voice and data and provide backup and security on network. Existing telecommunications towers will be prioritized for establishing stations in order to install wireless Internet in the various areas and to connect them to a national wireless backbone network.
A major advantage of the project will allow it to enhance Internet penetration and motivate the government and other enterprises to provide a wide range of innovative applications on this public Internet infrastructure.
Karen Kuo, who has been in St. Lucia for the past nine years as ICT Project Manager, said the island has already begun benefitting from the implementation of the ICT project by improving the delivery of services to the people of St. Lucia, enhancing efficiency and cutting costs.
Kuo said that the implementation of Crime Management System (CMS) for the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, an Advanced Transport Licensing Authority System (ATLAS) for the Ministry of Transport and an Agriculture Resource System (ARS) for the Ministry of Agriculture, will allow all these departments to be run more efficiently than in the past in terms of the services they provide to the public.
Similarly, the GINet would usher in a new era in the expansion of Internet access for the majority of the people of Saint Lucia.
She explained: “We found, for instance, that Internet costs in Saint Lucia are expensive so not everybody can afford it, unlike in Taiwan. So the GINet project will result in the creation of a wireless local area network (WLAN) in public areas which will allow the general public, including tourists, commuters, etc. to use wireless in public areas at a low cost.”
Kuo, who has been engaged in the ICT field for the past 25 years, said that the five districts which were selected by the Saint Lucia government for the GINet project will experience improvements in their respective developments.
She explained: “A front-end portal system will allow them to maintain their own content such as their history, attractions, activities, restaurants, guest houses, shopping outlets and other vital information that would be in demand from the general public, tourists and commuters.”
According to the 2010 population and housing census undertaken in Saint Lucia, there are about 5,668 business places in the five districts.
To date, progress on the GINet project has been rapid. Up to the end of April this year, the project execution plan had been completed and two Saint Lucia government officers had undergone a 40-hour overseas study tour in the Republic of China (Taiwan) to share that country’s experiences in public wireless network development.
Also, the project has conducted 18 training sessions for 123 participants while site surveys for the wireless backbone networks and Wi-Fi hot spots had been completed, as was the design for the implementation phase.
All the equipment for the implementation of the project has been shipped to Saint Lucia, the equipment for the operation centre has been installed at the Government Information and Technology Services Ltd. (GITS) and two technical team members have undergone 15 days of training to prepare them for their roles in the project.
According to the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) here, the installation phase of GINet devices will begin after the Saint Lucia government has completed the tendering process.