Challenges for sustainable rural networking in solomon islands
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Challenges for Sustainable Rural Networking in Solomon Islands. David Leeming People First Network Rural Development Volunteers Association [email protected] Country Facts.

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Challenges for Sustainable Rural Networking in Solomon Islands

David LeemingPeople First NetworkRural Development Volunteers Association [email protected]

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The People First Network (PFnet)……to promote and facilitate equitable and sustainable rural development and peace building by enabling better information sharing and knowledge building among and across communities forming the Solomon Islands……

Rural Development Volunteers Association (RDVA)

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1. Facilitate affordable access

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2. Facilitate rural development and peace-related information flows among all social groups;

3. Facilitate the exchange of information between communities and stakeholders;

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Rural wireless networking in HF band information flows among all social groups;

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Management Committees information flows among all social groups;

Community intermediaries

Technical intermediaries


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10 stations with another 13 scheduled by June 2004 information flows among all social groups;

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Applications information flows among all social groups;

Distance education

Sustainable livelihoods

Rural credit + solar power + communications = Rural “business incubator”

Farmer’s networking

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Disaster management information flows among all social groups;

Women’s networking

Community consultations:

i.e. Constitutional reform

Community policing

Rights awareness

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Services information flows among all social groups;

  • Email – community and private accounts

  • Searching on the Internet

  • News reports

  • Sharing information with partners

  • Secretarial services

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Constraints on connectivity activities

Island geography and dispersed population


Least developed country status


Limited infrastructure


High Internet costs (unequal global market)


Telecom monopoly


Ethnic conflict

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Problems and solutions : affordable connectivity activities

  • Unequal global telecom market

  • Effects of monopoly

  • 85% of country have no access to telecoms

  • VHF, 802.11

  • HF band networking

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Pros activities (of using HF band)

  • Simple to install and use

  • Robust, reliable

  • Very low running costs

  • Slow, point to point only

  • Vulnerable to d.o.s. caused by spam (becoming very aggressive)

  • Email only, no direct Internet access


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Creative management of low bandwidth activities

  • Training of stakeholders in efficient use

  • Filters – spam, large attachments

  • Web for mail systems

    • GetWeb (HealthNet)

    • www 4 mail (ICTP)

    • TEK (MIT)

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Web for mail systems: PFnet’s experience activities

  • GetWeb returns full web pages and assumes an generic email client

  • WWW4Mail very efficient – we use it to get specific pages I.e. cyclone weather updates

  • Command line syntax, URLs, are like hieroglyphics to our rural users

  • Users cannot conceptualize web architecture and navigation in order to search the Net

  • These systems do not build up a local resource

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Desirable user-related features activities

  • TEK has been the most useful

  • Simple user interface for searching

  • Builds up a local searchable archive

  • Remembers requests – avoids repetition

  • Command language not needed

  • “Intelligent” systems to aid inexperienced users choose effective keywords

  • Human intermediaries still needed in many applications

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Other access-related issues activities

  • Interpretation of content by new users

    • Intermediaries useful in specific applications

  • Inappropriate and criminal usage

  • Particular needs of education and academia

    • Case study: distance learning trials

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Distance education trials activities

People First Network

University of South Pacific Centre, Honiara

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Evaluation activities

  • The trials proved the utility of the ICT

  • Improved success rates, turnaround and student-tutor relationships

  • All participants needed training to use the low-bandwidth system

  • All academic staff should be involved

  • Main problem concerned access to reference material

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Access to online reference material activities

  • Initially, by referral – did not work well

  • Web4mail, eJDS etc not used at that time

  • Direct searching now possible, but students would need help choosing keywords and interpreting results

  • Quite often academic references were located but unobtainable electronically

  • Physical libraries are still important to help remote students

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Suggestions activities

  • PFnet will evaluate the eJDS system

  • More standardised online libraries of academic publications

  • User-related features

  • Searchable CD-Rom libraries with means to download updates

  • Intelligent search engines (keywords)

  • More consideration of low-bandwidth and email only access

  • A standard for formatting electronic material for low bandwidth access?

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Suggestions activities

  • To succeed with WSIS action plan:

  • Create more equality in the market (Internet access costs)

  • Otherwise accept subsidies for LDCs

  • Humanitarian bandwidth pool?

  • Take the spam war to the spammers; Internet security is a major problem for LDCs

  • Consider the special needs of small island developing states (SIDS)

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Need to support activities National ICT Strategy Building

  • Currently no ICT Strategy in place in S.I.

  • Regional ICT Policy Plan (2001)


  • Lack of focus

  • Partners not collaborating – no synergy

  • Dependant on personalities

  • ICT not used widely in Solomon Islands

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ICT Strategy Building workshop activities

Held to:

  • Identify why ICT4D is not use more widely

  • Build a consensus on priority objectives

  • Provide guiding documentation for ICT strategy building

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Outcomes activities

  • Problem and objectives trees constructed using OOPP

  • Priority objectives clusters identified

  • Document published (e.J.o.I.S.D.C)

  • Solomon Islands ICT Working Group created as national steering council

  • Included in e-Pacifika (UNDP)

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Problem Tree activities

55 problems associated with the use of ICT in development in Solomon Islands

Mapped onto a corresponding Objectives Tree

Objective clusters


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ICT4D strategy: activities Objective clusters

Support National ICT Strategy Building!!!

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End activities

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Update and Appropriation activities

This shows usage by number of emails sent, for the first PFnet station at Sasamungga (est. Oct 2001)

This shows the revenue trend. Current revenues are now sufficient to account for all costs including long term equipment replacement

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Sustainability of revenues activities

….the trend for the monthly rural station revenue is upwards in most stations. 4 out of 7 are already achieving more than the target of SB$300 per month, and 3 are reaching almost twice this value…..Other stations need more attention, such as stronger linkage to specific applications, awareness and so on. Research is needed to identify the reasons….

..a F$40K research programme is starting on Oct 2003, led by the University of the South Pacific with UNDP and PFnet as co-researchers, to study the social impacts and the factors affecting appropriation. Five rural sites will be studied. The results will be published in June 2004……

…Rural stations have no per minute charges. All revenues go to paying the volunteer operator an allowance, paper and ink. A small revenue stream is accumulated and reinvested for long term equipment replacement costs….

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Reasons for communicating activities

Family correspondence 2038 Forestry 4

Business and investment 442 Police/Law and order 2

Education 409 Emergency 2

Project / NGO 250

Ordering Supplies / Stocks 249 SAMPLE SIZE 4547 emails

Health / Medical 235

Travel 201

Church 167

Finance and Banking 157

Other/Unknown 49

Construction 49

School fee 43

Sports 30

Government Administration 18

Lands and Titles 17

Agriculture 9

Fisheries 6

Women issue 5

These are the results from daily reports sent from PFnet community stations for 2003. The full data including user profiles is published on the PFnet web site at the address below.

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Funding since Oct 2000 (US$) activities

  • Government of Japan 140K

  • NZAid 125K

  • UNDP (direct) 66K

  • UNDP (through SIDAPP) 60K

  • Government of Britain 60K

  • EU – supported 4 community stations directly 32K

  • Government of R.O.C. 20K

  • APDIP 9K

  • AusAid – supported 1 community directly 8K

  • Oxfam 1K