21 September 2020, Apia Samoa. An initiative driven by a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) will allow more than 50 schools in Savaii to receive free wifi between the hours of 7am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Speaking at the official launch of the project at the FAST headquarters at Tuanaimato this afternoon, founder of the E3 Samoa Trust, Togisala Tony Leota says the ‘Free School Wi-Fi Project’ is being implemented by his not-for-profit organisation, with installation and technical expertise provided by local telco company, Netvo Samoa in partnership with the FAST political party.
“At least 10 primary schools are now connected and accessing the online lessons provided by the Minsitry of Education since the COVID-19 lockdown,” says Togisala.
“More than 50 primary, colleges and mission schools in Savaii already have equipment installed and will be switched on and connected next week”.
Togisala says the satellite-based technology is provided through a partnership between Netvo Samoa and Kacific Broadband Satellite Company.
“Kacific is providing satellite and Wi-Fi equipment for the project which is a social impact and rural community initiative of Netvo Samoa,” says Togisala.
“Netvo’s mission and vision is to help and give back to our people through connectivity, especially in these hard and uncertain times”.
Kacific is a satellite operator providing high-speed broadband internet service for the South East Asia and Pacific Islands regions. Its
Registered in Vanuatu, Kacific is a member of the Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC), Member of the Pacific Islands Telecommunication Association (PITA), the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), and an affiliate member of the Asia-Pacific Tele-community (APT).
Partnering with FAST
Togisala says the project dates back to November 2019 when schools across Samoa were forced to close down as the government and Ministry of Health tried to contain the measles epidemic that claimed over 100 lives, mostly children and babies under 12 months.
“The Wi-Fi social impact project dates back to the measles epidemic when Laauli had contacted us, seeking help for the schools in his Savaii constituency under lockdown, because connectivity has always been a problem in this area,” says Togisala who is also the Chief Operations Officer of Netvo Samoa.
Addressing the nation through live media coverage at the launch, Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No.3 Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt says further lockdowns imposed on schools with the COVID-19 global pandemic had only compounded the impacts on students’ classroom learning, especially for remote areas in Savaii.
“We don’t mean to discredit the work of any government agency or undermine any currently initiatives, however, this has been an ongoing problem for our remote districts in Savaii, and when the second wave of lockdowns hit Samoa this year, we had to seek help and take action for the sake of our children’s learning”, said Laauli.
According to Togisala, the role of FAST has been to assist with village relations, and the important cultural contact needed to access villages for the project roll-out.
“FAST got the agreement and clearance of School Principals and Village School Committees in Savaii, and so installation started in June this year”.
Protection for Users
Laaulialemalietoa spoke about the importance of protecting children from inappropriate sites on the internet.
“The sites available to the children will be well filtered to ensure that only educational websites and those accessing curriculum for teachers, will be accessible”.
Asked about recent comments being aired by the Prime Minister towards the project, Laauli said he would rather steer clear of politics because this was a development initiative, done only for the purpose of finding a solution to the ongoing connectivity issues his constituents had faced.
“But I am saddened about the defamatory remarks directed towards Netvo Samoa,” said Laauli.
Togisala Tony Leota added that Netvo Samoa’s lawyers were looking into the matter.