Randall Biliki, 1963 – 2007

I just found out at Randall Biliki has died, apparently murdered in an attack on his family.

I met Randall for a brief time, when he came to Vanuatu to help get the ball rolling on our leg of the People First Network. He was a conscientious, quiet individual whose intelligence quickly made itself shown through the clarity of his questions and comments. He was always tactful and soft-spoken, so perfectly disarming that I thought he was one of those people who would always sail through smooth waters.

I’m going to Honiara next month for the annual PACINET conference, a regional ICT get-together sponsored by the Pacific Islands Chapter of the Internet Society (PICISOC). I was really looking forward to buying him a beer (he didn’t like the kava at all). Now I’ll have to go and pay my respects to his family, if they haven’t fled Honiara.

A note about PFNet – they were virtually the only media presence on the ground during the civil strife in the Solomon Islands, and their Internet cafĂ© was for some time the sole means of communication with the outside world for a number of people.

Randall, David Leeming, David Ma’ai and many others created a viable nation-wide communications network using technology that most others thought beneath them. Comparing their approach[*] with, for example, an Asian Development Bank-funded telecentre (at USD 125,000 a pop) provides an object lesson in sensible, sustainable development.

People often toss about the phrase ‘He will be missed‘ when speaking of the dead. But Randall’s death does exact a price. It can be measured directly in the ability of people on some of the remotest islands of the world to speak with one another.

This is probably the final straw for the Vanuatu extension of the project. Randall was to have come in and help run things for the first six months. I honestly don’t know how it can get off the ground without him around.