The People First Network

 

Solomon Islands

What is PFnet?

Why an E-mail System for Deprived and Remote Areas?

How Does PFnet Work?

Spreading the Network

Contacts

 

VIDEOS:

UN in Action

Silolo E-mail Station

 

PRESENTATIONS:

PFnet Primer

ICT & Education

 

DOCUMENTS:

ICT Strategy Workshop

Challenges for Sustainable Rural Networking

Education Through Wireless Rural Networking

Pelau E-mail Station Report

Pirupiru E-mail Station Report

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This CD resource was produced by:

 

The Foundation For Development Cooperation

www.fdc.org.au

using content supplied by

the People First Network.

 

 

Funding for production of this CD was provided by:

 

The ICT for Development Platform

www.ict-4d.org

 

NOTE: The 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.

David Leeming
PFnet Technical Advisor 2000-2007
www.rurallink.com.sb

What is PFnet?

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:

  • Facilitate point-to-point communications to and from the remote provinces of the Solomon Islands;

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

  • Facilitate the exchange of information between communities and development programmes, NGOs, government offices, the media, businesses and other stakeholders.

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.

 

Why an E-mail System for Deprived and Remote Areas?

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.

 

How Does PFnet Work?

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:

  • Conducted trials to deliver distance learning courses by email, in partnership with the University of the South Pacific (funded by APDIP);

  • Opened a community station as a farmer’s technical and marketing advice centre in partnership with Kastom Gaden Association (funded by AusAid);

  • Linked the rural email service to an indigenous business development service run through the Ministry of Commerce which helps business people access online business information and attract joint venture partners.

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".

 

Spreading the Network

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.

 

Contacts

For further information, please contact the PFnet team and visit our website:

 

www.peoplefirst.net.sb

 

Randall Biliki, PFnet Manager

pfnet@pipolfastaem.gov.sb

 

Alan Agassi, Chairman, RDVA

rdva@pipolfastaem.gov.sb

 

People First Network (PFnet)

Ministry of Provincial Government and Rural Development

PO Box 919 Honiara, Solomon Islands

 

Tel (677) 26358