Education Minister, Ronald Jones (centre), shares a word with CEO of Digicel (Barbados), Alex Tasker, while Chief Education Officer, Karen Best, looks on.

Education Minister, Ronald Jones (fourth from left) and CEO of Digicel (Barbados), Alex Tasker, with Education, Digicel and IBM officials looking on.

Safe tablets

THE 9 000 tablets disseminated to schools across the island will allow students to have the world at their fingertips, but they won’t have free rein over the devices.

Yesterday, Minister of Education Ronald Jones announced a joint initiative with Digicel (Barbados) Ltd. and IBM, which will ensure that Barbadian students keep pace with evolving technology on the devices that are controlled.

CEO of Digicel, Alex Tasker, explained that through a partnership with Digicel and IBM, the tablets in the programme will be managed by a Best in Class Mobile device management solution called “IBM MAS 360”. It will enable the Ministry to push approved educational content directly to the devices; restrict access to unauthorised apps, websites and features of the tablets; and track the location of the device in case of loss or theft.

“Cameras on the device will be disabled as we strive to help the country to fight cyberbullying and provide general online safety and security for our students,” Tasker explained.

The Minister said that he is hopeful that with this new technology, it will silence some of the “noises” heard when efforts are made to deploy technology in the schools, whether it is smartphones or other pieces of equipment.

“Even though technology has moved at such a rapid pace, we are still very much in our infancy at understanding its total use in Barbados. I guess from that we get this hesitancy, this fear,” he said, noting that the ban on cell phones has now been lifted and that the technology would be adaptable to cell phone use.

“Any society where there are new gadgets being rolled out, people tend to play too much to the negative. I believe that may be the concern of the Unions and some parents. But there is still a very strong move among students and parents to have smart phones in schools and they give you all the reasons why.”

The Minister said from the Ministry’s vantage point, this technology is solely for learning. “The MAS 360 gives us a platform where we can say to everybody out there, we will know where that mobile technology is, we will know what you are seeking to do with it... you will use it for what we want you to use it for.”

He said Cabinet has already signed off on this expandable mechanism, adding that more technology will be rolled out in schools gradually.

Tasker reiterated the importance of technology and the need to ensure no one is left behind.

According to him, “Distributing and managing 9 000 tablets to our students and teachers in Barbados is not necessarily an easy task so we are happy that the Government of Barbados saw it fit to bring us in along with the team at IBM to ensure this is done in the safest and most efficient manner,” he said. (JH)

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