FIVE YEARS AGO, I stepped over several ruts cut into the streets of Kilkenny on the day that Noel Dempsey, the Minister for Education and Science, announced plans for €18 million worth of fibre connectivity. The money was spent in Kilkenny and in other cities around Ireland, laying community broadband rings. These fibre optic cable systems can serve up high-speed Internet access to those connected to the fibre but it costs more than most schools will pay. Back in 2004, Minister Dempsey announced how the broadband rings would help to connect every primary and secondary school to broadband Internet services. That has not happened. For a two-year period, nearly all 4,100 primary and secondary schools in Ireland were connected to always-on broadband. Those funds have dwindled away now and some schools reported that their satellite broadband experience was inadequate for the kind of immersive virtual learning they had planned.
The Irish government's voluntary commitment of €15 million over a three year period meant the telecommunications sector provided an important helping hand in the government's work but that money has now trickled to an end.
No one denies that broadband connectivity enhances educational content, ensures greater access to multimedia applications, fosters the development of a central schools internet network and moves Ireland up the feeding chain. But today, in an environment when health care, civil servant pension funds and road works get higher priority funding, no one believes Irish primary and secondary schools will get government handouts to improve their ICT or broadband connectivity during the next two years.
Previously -- "Irish Schools Broadband Initiative" on Irish Typepad, 24 February 2004.