CASTRIES, St Lucia — The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to launch ProjectConnect, the first pillar of a wider project which seeks to connect every school in the world to internet and every young person to information, opportunity and choice.
The OECS-UNICEF initiative ‘ProjectConnect’ was successfully launched as part of a workshop held from November 26-29, 2019 in Antigua and Barbuda.
ProjectConnect aims to map every school and to provide real-time data on the quality of their internet connectivity. Hence, the three-day workshop brought together 21 information and communications technology managers from OECS ministries of education, statisticians, and Geographic Information System (GIS) professionals from across the Eastern Caribbean.
Participants benefited from a training session focused on collecting, editing and disseminating spatial and internet connectivity data on schools through the use of open-source tools. The data will be critical in developing an evidence-based strategy to provide all schools with fast and reliable internet access, as head of the OECS education development management unit, Sisera Simon, explained:
“Schools are sometimes faced with unreliable, and in some instances, unavailability of internet access, and this is an excellent initiative to fill that gap. ProjectConnect promotes access to information and will strengthen efforts to enhance technology-driven instruction and administration at the school level in the OECS region,” Simon said.
Representatives from UNICEF Eastern Caribbean in Barbados, UNICEF innovation in New York and the international telecommunications union in Geneva, who also attended the launch of ProjectConnect, were enthusiastic about the initiative.
“This is the first of its kind regional school connectivity mapping workshop that we’ve organised with the aim of building local capacity on how to collect and maintain data around internet connectivity in schools.”
“The data will allow us to identify gaps and will be the foundation for follow-up work with OECS governments and internet providers, and build a common bid for connectivity that will ensure that all schools in the OECS region have access to the internet,” Data scientist at UNICEF Innovation, Naroa Zurutuza, said.
In closing, the representatives from the OECS education development management unit announced the intention to convene a major conference in early 2020 with senior government officials and technical officers from OECS governments; and development partners, which will aim to develop a road map for connecting all public primary and secondary schools in the eastern Caribbean.