Free community Wi-Fi is to be made available in the heart of The City by the end of this year as Government rolls out its promised Smart Bridgetown project, the Government’s chief information technologist said Friday.
Free broadband internet access is to extend from the Bridgetown Port to Independence Square in the first phase of the project in a bid to woo more locals and tourists to the capital, said the director of the Data Processing Department in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology Rodney Taylor.
The free wi-fi forms the first phase of the Smart Bridgetown project, which will also see the roll out of smart parking solutions, a mobile app and an augmentation programme for the City, Taylor told the Small Business Association launch of Small Business Week at the Savannah Hotel.
The service will be available along the Princess Alice Highway, along Broad Street and onto Independence Square, and will stretch across to the Jewish Synagogue and Golden Square, he explained.
“We fully intend to expand that once we have delivered the pilot project and we ensure the wi-fi is delivered to the quality that we want and that is able to support the other services that we have mentioned including Smart Parking the Mobile App for Tourism, and then we can expand it beyond the immediate environs,” he said.
In the first quarter of 2020, invitations will go out to bid for the provision of a smart parking technology, and that process should take about three months, Taylor said. “So in the second quarter we are looking to implement the Smart Parking solution.”
“The idea is to drive more traffic to Bridgetown and certainly draw the tourists off the cruise ships.
“There are thousands of cruise ship passengers that stay on the ship every day. We want to drive that traffic into Bridgetown.
“We want to also encourage locals to congregate within Bridgetown and bring life into the city, and the wi-fi network is an opportunity to everyone, who at some point wants to get free wi-fi.”
Approximately $1 million has been allocated for the project, Taylor said, adding that the Prime Minister had insisted that officials provide the public with updates on the project.
Almost a dozen domestic and overseas IT firms submitted bids to provide the service seven months after ministers approved the project, said Taylor. Ministry officials are selecting the winning bidder who is to be informed in a matter of weeks, he added.
“We hope this wi-fi will be launched by November, [but] certainly by December so we can then move on to the other phases,” Taylor announced.
“We received 11 bids including international companies who are interested in providing the infrastructure for the free public wi-fi and we are in the process of evaluating those bids, and we hope to do that within the next two to three weeks and then select a vendor and then negotiate a contract for the provision of wi-fi where we can start implementing anywhere around November, and that will be a phased implementation to cover the area that we have identified from the Bridgetown Port all the way up to Independence Square.”
SBA Chief Executive Officer Senator Lynette Holder encouraged the scores of small business owners gathered for the launch of Small Business Week to make use of technology in their operations and form strategic partnerships in an effort to maximize their reach.
Noting that technology could help to improve a company’s overall competitiveness, Holder said: “We are encouraging more and more members to use technology and we ensure that the types of training programmes that we bring to the sector are focused on understanding the technology, how to use the technology and how to maximize it for your businesses.”