Tuesday, 22 January 2013 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - The Ministry of Information Technology’s recent GATE project, has been the subject of much criticism since it’s creation.
Criticism about the use of tablets instead of laptops, the favoritism of the Ministry toward a private company, and the quality of the initiative were all called into question.
However, now that further information has been shed on the subject by Minister of Information Dr. Edmond Mansoor, the Government Assisted Technology Endeavour may not be as worrying as it initially seemed.
According to the Minister, Digicel have donated $6.75 Million EC, or $2.5 million USD, to a “tablet fund”, which will be used to buy 6,000 Samsung Galaxy 2 Tablets.
The tablets themselves are not of poor quality, and with the addition of mobile data connectivity cost roughly $400 USD a unit on the market, which multiplied by 6,000 reaches $2.4 million US or $6.48 million EC, almost the total of the tablet fund.
It is not clear at what price Digicel are buying the tablets, since 6,000 units will definitely result in bulk discounts from the manufacturer.
The main area for concern initially was connectivity. According to the Minister, students will have access 12 hours a day, and Digicel have agreed to donate the $71.64 million EC worth of connectivity over 5 years.
That figure equates to roughly $199 a student a month, which is the same as Digicel’s 4G LTE 50GB plan.
So it appears that students of Antigua and Barbuda will be receiving good tablets with fairly valued connectivity. The performance of Digicel’s 4G network will still need to be tested, but providing good speed is achieved, students will have an effective way to browse the web and research for school through the GATE Initiative.
Digicel also claims to have enabled an application that filters dangerous or inappropriate websites from being viewed on the tablet while browsing using Digicel’s network. The filter is however not available when the tablet is used with Wi-Fi or other forms of Internet connection.
One issue that still raises concern is the EC$1,600 fee that parents must shoulder if a tablet is damaged, lost, or stolen. While an insurance package is still in the works, each tablet is worth EC$1,080 , which raises the question why are parents being charged an additional EC$520?
And the Minister still has not addressed the greatest concern of all. Why was Digicel selected for this project?
While the GATE may be a good initiative for Antigua and Barbuda, why did the Ministry deliberately employ Digicel in this initiative when APUA could just as easily have setup a competent 4G network?
Has APUA been granted the 4G frequencies that they were previously denied, or is the Ministry still unwilling to grant APUA the frequencies, halting APUA’s attempts to establish a 4G network?
And at the end of 5 years, when Digicel stops donating connectivity to the students of Antigua and Barbuda, what will happen to the GATE project?
It is unclear whether or not the Minister is aware that the GATE project will directly lead to a large amount of 4G customers for Digicel, and consequently a large decline for APUA iMobile and other potential 4G providers, particularly because of the millions of dollars in concessions that Digicel has received.