600 more Irish schools to get 100Mbps broadband

4 Oct 2010

Now that the first 78 schools have gone live with 100Mbps broadband, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan TD today confirmed that 300 more schools in 2011 and a further 300 in 2012 will be equipped with 100Mbps.

He said that Ireland is one of the first countries in the world to deliver such a broadband programme on a national level.

For the past year, fibre optic and wireless networks were installed in the 78 schools – at least one school per county.

Enhanced ICT facilities, including more than 1,500 wireless digital projectors and 2,000 laptops, were distributed to the schools.

“The jobs of the future are in the digital economy and our children need to be confident and comfortable with the use of technology,” Ryan said at a special launch event at St Colmcille’s Community School in Dublin.

At the school, students and teachers demonstrated how lessons in science, maths and art could be deployed by making use of the 100Mbps connectivity.

How the schools were chosen

The schools who received the 100Mbps connectivity were chosen on the basis of geographical location and an adequate mix of schools to ensure broad social inclusion.

The project was a co-operation between the Department of Communications, the Department of Education, the Higher Education Authority, HEAnet and the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE).

The network will be maintained on behalf of the Department of Communications by HEAnet. The NCTE is charged with integration of the networks into the schools and with providing frontline support.

The telecoms firms that were responsible for the delivery of the new networks were Eircom, Airspeed, Digiweb, E-net, Imagine, BT, Complete Telecom and Telindus. Dell Ireland provided the laptop equipment.

The director of the NCTE Jerome Morrissey told students, teachers and dignitaries that Irish teachers have shown a massive enthusiasm for learning new technology and in the past year some 12,000 teaching professionals availed of ICT training.

Some 47 schools will have their bandwidth supplied via licensed wireless microwave and 31 will be supplied by fibre. AirSpeed Telecom, for example, are providing 100Mbps broadband to 31 of those schools in a range of diverse geographical locations such as the Aran Islands, Tory Island and schools in Cork, Clare, Galway, Kildare, Wexford, Wicklow, Donegal and Dublin.

Beyond the physical classroom

“We are changing the day-to-day classroom experience,” said Ryan. “The ‘chalk and talk’ models won’t work anymore. Learning needs to be multi-sensory and interactive, allowing students to learn in schools in the same way they socialise and learn at home. Seeing the students today making a virtual visit to the Louvre in Paris is remarkable – they are stepping beyond the four walls of their classroom into a new world during their school day.

“With this scheme, we are creating the digital citizens – the writers, the inventors and the businesspeople – of the future. I believe the provision of 100Mbps broadband will transform education in Ireland and place our children at the forefront of the digital revolution.

“All secondary schools will soon reap the benefits,” Ryan said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years