Government is expected to realize significant savings with the roll out of a $2.4 million Wide Area Network (WAN) programme across all its office locations.
In fact, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of the Civil Service Allyson Forte said the Humprey Walcott Building, which houses the Ministry of the Civil Service, the personal administration department and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), has already realized savings of over 53 per cent on its telecommunications bill alone, and this was expected to be replicated across the public sector.
The WAN, which delivers internet protocol (IP) telephony, high speed internet, wide area networking, email and support business application run by every Government ministry, is being implemented by telecommunications company, Digicel.
Yesterday, Digicel officials and Government representatives from the Ministry of the Civil Service signed the agreement at the Humprey Walcott Building.
The officials said phase one of the project, which started weeks after the signing of the memorandum of understanding in June last year, would see the WAN implemented in about 32 Government sites, which consists of close to 70 Government ministries and departments. Phase two, is expected to benefit about 25 government sites.
The permanent secretary said the WAN would serve as a key infrastructural element and a catalyst for Government to aggressively implement its proposed e-government programmes, adding that it had the ability to transform the public service.
“Additionally, the WAN is expected to play a crucial role in the execution of the Human Resource Development Strategy now being implemented,” she said, noting that access to timely and reliable information was critical to decision-making, policy formulation and programme implementation in the public and private sector.
Stressing the benefits of the new network, Forte added that it would also create an opportunity for the rationalization of Government’s current data and voice networks.
“The network is also expected to provide, among other things, high-speed inter-agency connections for greater communication and service delivery efficiencies; internet gateway for Government, which is secure and cost effective; extensive utilization of IP telephony with resultant cost savings; [and] provision of new secure modes of communication between government and citizens,” said Forte.
In addition, he said the network should result in “reduced operational cost” through standardization and economies of scale, easier sharing and dissemination of information among all stakeholders, as well as the facilitation of the deployment of enterprise-wide applications and services, which enable improved and re-engineered Government operations such as budgeting, financial management, human resource management, payroll and procurement”.
The Government official added that it should also meet “pent-up demand” for connectivity across and within Government ministries and agencies.
Digicel has already employed ten full-time staff for the implementation of phase one of the project. And general manager of Digicel Business Martin Keogh said at the end of both phases the company was expected to employ 20 permanent staff.
Keogh described the network as a powerful one, pointing out that in the current economic climate Government would see more than cost savings.
“The operating efficiency means every Government body connected to the Wide Area Network can transmit data up to 100 times faster than before,” said Keogh, who gave the assurance that the network was secure.
“It is in a highly secure physical location, but just based on the initial deployment there are eight Cisco ASA [Adaptive Security Appliance] firewalls deployed to protect from external and internal intrusion,” said Keogh.