Five thousand households are expected to benefit from a partnership between the Government of Saint Lucia and FLOW. A Home Communications Relief initiative, which was launched last week, will provide internet access to indigent individuals at a monthly rate of $20.00. The package will include cable TV service with access to 10 channels.
According to Social Justice Minister Joachim Henry, single parents and students will undoubtedly benefit from this collaboration.
“We are targeting persons who need it most and persons who are extremely vulnerable; single parents with children that need to have access to information. As we move in providing support during this period, (making) one laptop available to every child in form one, we are happy that this is being backed up with a FLOW bundle that will ensure our children will not only have a laptop at their home, but they will also have access to information in this difficult time,” Henry said at last week’s signing ceremony.
The idea was conceptualized at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, FLOW’s Commercial Manager Anselm Mathurin stated. Mathurin noted that there was a dire need for connectivity during that period and that a lack of access to the internet proved to be a great challenge for many.
“Movement was limited, and we truly got a real sense of how wide the digital divide in our country was. To many, the prohibitive cost and resulting unavailability of (devices) like the laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone were the greatest barriers to homeschooling and working from home, but in fact the ultimate limitation is the lack of access to the worldwide web,” Mathurin said.
Whilst the above mentioned can be a hindrance to individuals, Mathurin said that increasing the broadband speed in an economy can increase a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to 0.3 percent.
“Research conducted in 33 OECD countries by Ericsson, leading global ICT provider, Arthur D. Little, the world’s oldest management consulting firm, and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden confirmed that broadband availability and speeds are strong drivers in an economy,” Mathurin said.
Infrastructure Minister Stephenson King expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Philip J Pierre for supporting the initiative. The latter, he stated, had given the project his full attention. Furthermore, government’s negotiations with FLOW yielded satisfactory results.
“I want to take this opportunity to recognize the prime minister who has demonstrated great leadership in many initiatives which this government has undertaken ever since we assumed office on July 26, 2021. This initiative is one which he’s given great support for; it’s an initiative which started many years before and he has stuck to it and given it all of his attention, giving me the necessary impetus and support to make it happen,” King said.
“Government accepted what FLOW has proposed which makes provisions for connectivity to 5000 households at a reasonable price of $20.00. We were successful in negotiating a higher speed which I consider to be a reasonably good compromise and I should state that when the original proposal was presented, it was five megabytes per second. Today you heard Mr. Mathurin indicate that it has been increased to 15 megabytes and this is certainly an achievement,” the minister added.
According to Saint Lucia Times, government is also exploring the possibility of solar-powered modems and prepaid electricity.
Whilst the latter might not be cheaper, it certainly is beneficial, Henry intimated.
“If you are purchasing electricity on a prepaid approach, would the cost be less? Maybe not. But research in Dominica has shown that persons who purchase electricity on a prepaid approach – the incidence of disconnection is almost zero. As a matter of fact, they’re moving from almost ten thousand to 50 percent of the population in Dominica now consuming electricity on a prepaid approach,” the website quoted the minister as saying.
“A FLOW bundle, even if it is twenty dollars, but also powered by solar energy means it is not connected to the grid; even if you are unable to have electricity, once your phone has energy you can still be online,” Henry added.
According to the website, the minister stated that “this is the initiative that puts the principle of equity at work. It is this initiative that says whether you live at Cap Estate or live anywhere in Saint Lucia you have access to information instantly and at all times and you can compete on equal footing.”