NEW BIGHT, Cat Island, The Bahamas – During the launch of Park Connect Free Wi-Fi, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said, on August 13, 2022, that he was “so pleased” to launch the important nationwide initiative in the island where he grew up – Cat Island.
“After months of planning and hard work, we are pleased to launch a programme which will benefit Bahamians across the country: Free Wi-Fi in at least one park in every constituency throughout our nation,” Prime Minister Davis said, at the ceremony held at the New Bight Regatta Park, on that island. Prime Minister Davis noted that his office and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in partnership with Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches, Cable Bahamas, Bahamas Telecommunications Company, Bahamas Power and Light and the Grand Bahama Power Company had combined resources, expertise and their “shared love for country” to bring together the initiative.
That day, free internet access was also launched in parks in Fresh Creek, Andros; Harbour Island, near North Eleuthera; and on various parks on New Providence.
“Internet access has become an essential service, as crucial to economic development as roads or utilities,” Prime Minister Davis said. “The internet is a highway of information and opportunities, bringing people news, allowing for the sharing of ideas, and building connections between communities.”
“Now, this valuable resource will be available free of charge to Bahamian individuals, families and businesses in parks and community centers across the country,” he added. “This will expand opportunities for thousands, allowing Bahamians to access virtual learning, job searches, and digital skills development at the click of a button and for free.
“This is not simply an investment in a park — this is an investment in our people and in our future.”
Prime Minister Davis shared just one of many example of the initiative’s potential to have an impact. He said: “As you all know, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in this country. I’ve met so many Bahamians who lost work during the lockdowns and decided to turn their talents and skills into a small business opportunity. I know they’ve since inspired many others to follow that path. But at the very beginning, it can be hard to know the best way to grow and scale up a tiny, informal operation. The Internet can be a great resource – for researching business plans, learning marketing ideas, and connecting to customers. This is the kind of information everyone should be able to access – and this is how digital tools can drive economic development and connectivity.”
Prime Minister Davis said that the launch of Park Connect Free Wi-Fi access throughout The Bahamas was part of a larger digital transformation strategy for The Bahamas. He pointed out that the launch that day represented an important step forward in closing the digital divide.
He said: “Especially at a time when global inflation has resulted in rising prices and a very heavy cost of living burden for Bahamians, offering this service free means that thousands who have been unable to afford access will now have the doors to the digital world opened: That means doors to online banking, online learning, business operations, zoom church meetings and work webinars; and doors to applying for e-Passports, driver’s licence, birth certificates and other government services online.”
“I was told about a young Bahamian who was determined to study for and pass his exams during distance learning – but he didn’t have regular Internet access at home,” Prime Minister Davis related. “He had to hang around outside a private business and use their WiFi when he could. I know you join me in my admiration for his resolve and his tenacity – but of course, we must do better for our young people.
“A young Bahamian who is striving for education and a better life – this is someone whom we should support in every way possible,” he added. “We need to keep knocking down digital barriers and obstacles, to help all of our people unlock their best possible futures.”
Prime Minister Davis said that the provision of the infrastructure that made free Wi-Fi possible, along with the recommissioning and upgrading of public parks, was in keeping with his Government’s goals of creating both a thriving digital society and stronger communities.
“As outlined in our Blueprint for Change, we believe Bahamians deserve more support for local economic development, more community-building, better facilitation of e-government services and certainly more access to education and skills development.” he said.
“My friends, the digital revolution is here,” Prime Minister Davis said. “If you have ever been denied access to the internet due to costs or accessibility, today is especially for you. “Park Connect Free Wi-Fi is just the beginning of our digital journey. We have so much more in store for you and our beautiful Bahamaland.”