Rural Internet Comes to Vanuatu

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

This week, Ian Thomson, project coordinator for the SPC’s Pacific RICS project, came to town with some eye-catching gifts in hand.

Pacific RICS, which stands for Rural Internet Connectivity System, is the result of the Pacific Islands Forum’s Digital Strategy, itself part of the Pacific Plan. The AusAID-funded project offers Pacific Island nations access to dedicated satellite communication services using simple, easy to install and inexpensive equipment. This project is designed to dovetail with the Oceania One Laptop Per Child initiative, which aims to ensure that all children in the region get their own low-cost, durable laptop.

During a public presentation on Tuesday, attended by Ministers Edward Nipake Natapei and Joe Natuman, Santo MP Sela Molisa and many others, Thomson outlined how combining affordable Internet access and invaluable learning tools like the OLPC’s XO laptop could revolutionise life in rural areas of Vanuatu.

A sample satellite system was set up in a single afternoon at Club Vanuatu, and Minister Natapei demonstrated how easy it was to use it to connect to the Internet.

Expressing his excitement about the projects, Thomson said, ‘I feel like Father Christmas! I get to give out laptops to children – who could say no to a job like that? Not only will it help them learn, but it will also help all community members to engage with Internet technology and get connected to the global network.’

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