Education minister Diallo Rabain yesterday hit back at the idea that Bermuda’s America’s Cup group had “gifted” nearly $150,000 of wi-fi equipment to the island’s public schools.
A legacy report from ACBDA last week said that it and the America’s Cup Event Authority were in the process of donating all their indoor and outdoor wi-fi equipment, worth about $145,000 — enough for every public school in Bermuda.
At yesterday’s press conference Mr Rabain said the installation of wi-fi in schools to cover computer labs, libraries and gyms was under way and would be finished by the start of the 2018 school year.
Mr Rabain was asked why the donation of the wi-fi equipment by ACBDA to the Ministry of Education had not been mentioned in previous discussions about wi-fi installation in schools.
He said: “I take exception to the term gifted.
“Because how can a government department, or Government that owns equipment, gift it to another department?
“The fact that the last administration chose to reduce our IT budget from $1 million in 2012 to $400,000, which would have included installation of wi-fi, really doesn’t sit very well with me.
“So to take that money and not use it when it was supposed to have been used, give it to the America’s Cup, and then come back and say here’s some equipment for you to install in your schools is very disingenuous to me.”
But Mr Rabain confirmed that the equipment had been received. He said: “It’s always been known that that equipment would be installed and utilised within our wi-fi system.”
This week ACBDA provided The Royal Gazette with more information about the donation of Cisco indoor and outdoor wireless equipment to the Ministry of Education.
An ACBDA spokeswoman said: “The ministry has determined that all middle schools, Clearwater, Dellwood, TN Tatem, Whitney and Sandys Secondary will be equipped with outdoor internet connectivity at the schools’ fields and that most primary schools’ fields will have wi-fi installed.
“All primary schools will also be outfitted with wireless coverage in their assembly halls, labs and libraries.
She added: “The equipment was first used in the America’s Cup Village at Cross Island and in the high-tech operations centre from which the event was run in May and June this year.
“It was procured at very reasonable pricing negotiated at a significant discount, thanks to the relationship between ACBDA and the manufacturer, and the significance of the America’s Cup brand reputation.”
ACBDA telecommunications committee chairwoman Fiona Beck, said: “The ACBDA is proud to be able to make this happen.
“In practical terms this means that school fields will now be online with this new outdoor wi-fi equipment that is designed to withstand the rigours of Bermuda’s weather.
“This is leading-edge, state- of-the-art technology, the likes of which Bermuda has not seen before and it is now in our public schools.”
ACBDA CEO Mike Winfield said: “Rather than selling the equipment on the open market, the ACBDA saw value in offering the assets to the Government to use in schools.
“This legacy benefit is just one small example of how the America’s Cup is giving back to the community even after the event.”
Mr Rabain said yesterday that an internet usage policy was being developed and he maintained that “there will be no unfettered use by students or teachers”.
He added: “Additionally, a proposal for computers to outfit all primary school computer labs with new desktops was issued in August and submissions are being evaluated.
Mr Rabain said that extra cash would be needed to complete installation work.
He added: “The plan has these desktops installations to begin in January 2018.
“We are currently commencing with the wiring that is required to install the various bits of equipment.”