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Dominica’s IoT Schools Project Creates Producers and Not Consumers!

The National Telecommunications Regulator in Dominica successfully secured US$18,000 in grant funding. The NTRC entered the Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean, (FRIDA) grant competition, winning the programme’s most technical category – Innovation for Internet Development.

We spoke to the Executive Director at the NTRC Mr. Craig Nesty to some background of the project and what he hopes the project might achieve.

Dominicans Found Broadband Internet Irrelevant

I asked what was it that the motivation, behind the Internet of Things (IoT) School Project?

As a regulator part of our mandate is to increase broadband penetration. What we found through surveys and gap analysis, for the USF was that people basically found broadband to be irrelevant. Or they didn’t see the benefits of the Internet or the value of the internet for the money they were paying. They could not equate, $89 a month, to FaceBook, especially in certain demographics.

Identifying a Meaningful Project

So we set about trying to determine how we could make the Internet more relevant. We also recognised that we in the Caribbean basically use the Internet for consumption of resources. We don’t generate any content, we don’t produce anything. So the inspiration behind the project was to give kids an opportunity to see how the Internet could be utilised. And how they could actually create something and generate useful information that could be used by vast cross section of society. We’re talking about from disaster planners to farmers to environmental modellers.

Cue the Raspberry Pi

So when I came across this article where in England, they were introducing computing to kids as young as six years old. And they were doing that with the Raspberry Pi, which I thought that was pretty interesting. I recognised that this was an opportunity for us to do something similar perhaps not on the same scale. But if we could put a Raspberry Pi in every school, then every student would be aware that there was such a device. If we could show them through one project the types of things we can do with that one device, it might inspire them to further innovate and create and take full advantage of the internet.

The Digital Divide has not Been Bridged!

This is the only way I think we can bridge the digital divide and create that equalising effect that the internet should have brought about. Which in my view it hasn’t. A lot of people might think that’s controversial, but to me the internet is a great amplifier, it enhances the capabilities you already have. So for us in Dominica we are consumers. We order a lot internationally and consume locally, and the internet has basically accelerated that. So it’s essentially created a lot more capital flight, and we need to find a way to reverse that, and the IoT Schools Project is a small step in trying to address some of the problems that I see.