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Working for an AusAID private sector development program based in Suva for the past two years has given me the opportunity to travel around Fiji and see the challenges affecting its people and its economy. The work has been very engaging and taken up all of my time, a large factor in why I have neglected this site.
I’m coming back to this site after a long hiatus to share with you my insights from having taken a much closer look at the issues faced by agriculturalists and small businesspeople around the islands. I will also be chronicling a few special projects over the next few months. The emphasis remains the same as before, trying to show that first-rate innovation is possible in the Islands
I remained as convinced as ever that technology has a role to play in helping lift people out of poverty. Yet, I’m a bit more grounded about whether technology decision-makers will actually put in place the conditions for users to harness the real potential. A while back, I heard from a Vodafone Fiji staffer that some 75% (or greater) of download volume consists of music and videos. So, technology is making inroads into our lives, but users seem to gravitate toward entertainment.
My thinking at work is increasingly dominated by the Development perspective–largely been framed by what can make economic growth possible. Still, I believe in societies where jobs are difficult to find and are low-paying, technology can play a role in unleashing stifled entrepreneurial spirit and providing livelihoods.
Farm-e, my agricultural marketplace collaboration, was a result of this vision. Having visited the agricultural and rural areas of Fiji, I’ve been able to think about how ICT can support those in agriculture. Farm-e remains shelved for the moment.
My focus for now is on remote weather sensor networks and their capacity to inform better decision-making for growers. This came out of conversations with growers about changing weather patterns and the impact of natural disasters.
Over the course of the next few months, I will be chronicling my efforts at improving access to weather data for everyone in Fiji.
I was asked this question several times at PTC ’09 by different individuals.
Well, here’s the answer:
This past weekend, CW crossed 8,000 views. The busiest day for this site was the day Digicel launched operations in Fiji. The figure for views today is representative of a modest growth in traffic to about 40-50 views daily.
Thinking out loud: If you consider that in the Pacific, only 4 out of 100 people use the internet and factor in the ‘missing’ users, do a little bit of math and wishful thinking and you can see that if internet usage rates were similar to OECD countries, this site would have 150,000+ views.
Of course, if this site had 150k views, there probably would not be any need for discussing ways to improve internet accessibility in Fiji.
For a while, I have been wanting to find a better way to organize this site. Some of you may be familiar with how to use tags and categories to perform searches. I’m taking this opportunity to explain the categories that will now be used to sort posts on this site. If you find a particularly useful post on a topic, you can click on the relevant keyword and you will be taken to links for all other posts filed in the same category.
Moving forward, posts will be categorized using the below system. I will also take some time, go through old posts, update them, and file them according to the new scheme. Some old categories will be phased out.
Again, these are just proposed category areas for now. I am also open to suggestions for other categories from readers.
The nominees, in no particular order…
These first two categories are relevant to the the issue of IP backhaul services, how data is transmitted into and out of Fiji
Satellite-improved satellite technology could mean the promise of satellite-based IP trunking solutions
Submarine cable-There are quite a few cabling projects underway in the South Pacific and key to bringing greater connectivity between the islands is to link them up with fiber-optic cable
Wireless is an ever-shifting landscape. You will find three categories here and thanks to relevant discussion of topics like broadband and mobile internet convergence, a great deal of overlapping area. What is important to remember here is that this is a discussion of the current and future generation mobile and wireless networks and competing standards and vision mean a great deal to how accessible the internet becomes in Fiji.
3G—refers commonly to wide-area cellular telephone networks that evolved to incorporate high-speed Internet access and video telephony.
WiMAX–networks thar are short range, high-bandwidth networks primarily developed for data.
LTE—“Long-term evolution” refers to upcoming generations of cellular telephone networks.
Next up, we have what I call the 3-E’s of Empowerment. When in doubt, empower the user. That’s what I intend to do here with stories, examples, cases of ‘best practices’ that highlight the role technology can play in getting people to take charge of their own lives:
Education—technology is revolutionizing every aspect of education.
Entrepreneurship—whole new ways of going business
Environment—in the South Pacific, the challenge is to leave it in a pristine condition for the next generation
The following two categories fall under the rubric of industry policy. What separates countries where internet is cheap and ubiquitous from countries where it is expensive and unavailable to the masses? Not technology–that’s available to all. It is up to the policy makers and regulators to come up with a vision for cheap and high-quality internet in Fiji.
Policy—this is a highly contentious area, nevertheless, I intend to plunge us all into discussion. Around the world, smart government regulation has brought about solutions that industry could not. Businesses cannot be expected to think of the long-term interests of anyone other than their shareholders. That is why you need policy.
BPO—business process off-shoring. Highlighting Fiji’s suitability as a location for BPO ventures.
Last, but not least… the dream:
Universal access—internet usage in Fiji is estimated at 4 out of 100 households. In OECD countries, that figure is closer to 80 out of 100 countries.
This is not a final list and will undoubtedly go some revision. I hope the brief explanations helps readers understand this site a little better.