The People First Network
This CD resource was produced by:
The Foundation For Development Cooperation
using content supplied by
the People First Network.
Funding for production of this CD was provided by:
The ICT for Development Platform
PFnet website is currently not available. Until this is addressed,
I am making some of the contents available here. However, I regret
that the dynamic sections (news, library, message board, SIDAPP resources)
are not working because my web hosting does not offer ASP support.
I hope that PFnet can rescue this website before too long.
The People First Network, or PFnet, is a rural connectivity project, which aims 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.
The project has established an email system based on a robust, proven and sustainable technology that permits remote locations on islands across thousands of square kilometres to have access to Internet emails using a simple computer, short-wave radio, and solar power, and PFnet is now working with partners to develop applications of the network in many sectors.
The objectives of the PFnet are to:
The People First Network is a project of Rural Development Volunteers Association (RDVA), a not-for-profit organisation established by the Ministry of Provincial Government and Rural Development.
It is precisely in deprived and remote areas that basic telecommunication has the most value and impact. For such locations, telecommunication is the only and vital link with the outside world, either to ensure health security, public services such as education, or essential contacts with family and professional peers.
Yet, currently, the only two means of communication with the outside world for most remote locations in the Solomon Islands are short-wave radios and satellite telephones. When short -wave radios are used for voice communication, they often require hours of patient queuing and retrials, sometimes in vain, and at a cost still very high for rural folks living largely in non-cash subsistence economy. In turn, satellite telephones, when available, are far beyond the reach of most of the population, regardless of the destination called.
The PFnet system, offering basic email services, seeks to improve connectivity while dramatically reducing the prices of communication, making it affordable for low-income users and sustainable over time. As a basic utility to all other activities, this affordable telecommunication and information network will assist the country, particularly low-income groups, in taking in charge their own development through improved logistics, information and knowledge. A particular attention is given to gender equity and democratic governance. This is in concrete terms what bridging of the digital divide means to the Solomon Islands.
PFnet has two key components. One is an Internet Café in Honiara, which allows residents of the capital city to access the Internet for writing emails to all locations across the Solomon Islands or the wider Internet. They can also browse the World Wide Web in search of information, or post their own information to share with others. The Café has been operational since February 2001 with 12 workstations, and has proven very useful to the community and is already financially self-sufficient. The Café also serves as a training facility for a number of rural development stakeholders and the broader public.
The second and, over time, most important component of PFnet is the network of email stations located in remote islands across the country. The stations are usually hosted in provincial clinics, community schools, or other accessible and secure public facilities. Email operators assist customer to send and receive emails at a nominal cost.
The stations use a simple, robust and well-proven technology, consisting of a short-wave radio (already ubiquitous and well-known in the South Pacific), a low-end computer, and solar energy. On schedule, several times a day, each remote email station connects to the hub station in Honiara automatically. At such time, incoming or outgoing emails are transferred between the remote station and the hub, and between this hub and the wider Internet.
Now the network is established, it is being used to facilitate the rural networking needs of sectors such as education, health, finance and agriculture. Already, as of April 2003, PFnet has:
PFnet also provides substantial information resources and news on it’s web site and is active in facilitating the flow of trusted news between communities. This is an important part of peace building in a nation torn by ethnic conflict.
Other technologies are also being field tested, including an LEO satellite service and portable ground station which has been developed for non-profit use in development, along with the creation of a "humanitarian bandwidth pool".
As of April 2003, nine stations have been established with at least eight others scheduled or under funding negotiation.
Later, PFnet plans to deploy as many as 25 remote email stations across the nine provinces of the country. This is pending available funds from aid sources. Key stations may grow into better equipped "learning centres" as part of an integrated strategy to strengthen the education sector. However, now the system is in place, it is very simple to add any number of stations on a modular basis.
For example, an NGO upgrading rural clinics, a bank implementing a micro-credit scheme, or an environmental group running an eco-tourist site, may all wish to include a communication component to their projects. Similarly, information providers such as radio stations or electoral monitors can use PFnet to send dispatches and received reports from their staff in the field. PFnet will also prove crucial to small business entrepreneurs in fisheries or agro-forestry, for example, who need to maintain contacts with clients, suppliers and shippers.
Provisions can therefore be made for the standard equipment and installation costs (approximately USD 6,000 in total), to enable sites to join the PFnet network for regular email connectivity. The PFnet programme can supply the equipment and expertise for deployment, training and maintenance of the remote stations.
For further information, please contact the PFnet team and visit our website:
Randall Biliki, PFnet Manager
Alan Agassi, Chairman, RDVA
People First Network (PFnet)
Ministry of Provincial Government and Rural Development
PO Box 919 Honiara, Solomon Islands
Tel (677) 26358