APIA, SAMOA: A Community project providing Free WiFi Connectivity to Primary schools, Colleges and Mission schools on Savaii Island was launched at midday today.
At least ten (10) Primary Schools are now connected and accessing the Online lessons provided by the Ministry of Education since the Covid-19 lockdown.
The project provides free internet connectivity from 7.00am to 4.00 pm on school days and has upstaged Governments multi-million dollar projects to provide connectivity through the costly Tui Samoa Submarine Cable, the Super National Broadband Highway (SNBH) that was designed to connect all government ministries and offering connectivity and catering for education on the Schoolnet project. But none seemed to be working as connectivity to the internet remains an issue.
“So when the Free School WIFI Project was switched on two weeks ago and provided internet connection for 8 primary and 2 colleges in Savaii, the PM said the project was illegal and that the office of the Regulator was not aware of it.”
When the project was launched today, Togisala Tony Leota, Chief Operations Officer of Netvo Samoa and Founder of E3 Samoa Trust clarified that everything was above board.
Infact the Office of the Regulator signed it off in June this year before the implementation and satellite dishes installed. And his legal team is looking at the PMs comments that border on defamation.
“We were turned down”
The Free School Wi-Fi Project is implemented by the E3 Samoa Trust, a non-profit organisation, with installation and technical expertise provided by the Samoa owned Telco company, NetVo Samoa Limited in a partnership with the FAST political party.
“The Free School Wi-Fi project is NetVo’s social impact and rural community initiative,” said Togisala Tony Leota, Chief Operations Officer (COO), Netvo Samoa/Founder of E3 Samoa Trust.
“NetVo’s mission and vision is to help and give back to our people through connectivity, especially in these hard and uncertain times,” he said.
According to Togisala, they approached and made presentations on what they can offer to various government Ministries including MESC and the Ministry of Women and Social Development.
“But they turned us down,” said Togisala, whose company streamed online the local TV One to a global audience and other service providers followed suit.
“They seem to say, how can we – as a Samoa company succeed against other huge companies,” said Togisala.
So the project moved on quietly knowing the reality that there was little to no internet connection for schools in Savaii despite investment in computer labs. It wasn’t until last week when teachers were so excited having connected for the first time that the negative messages started coming through from Government.
According to Togisala, this is NetVo’s first social impact and rural community initiative which includes access to digital educational platforms that NetVo will be offering for free for all schools of Samoa – this will be implemented in the months to come.
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.
The Schools connecting so far include:
- Patamea Primary
- Tutaga Primary
- Vaisala Primary
- Sacred Hearts Safotu Primary
- Safotu Primary
- Sasina Primary
- Saleaula Primary
- Auala Primary and
- Itu Asau College
- Itu o Tane College
More than 50 Primary, Colleges and Mission schools in Savai’i already have equipment installed and will be switched on and connected this week.
Partnership with FAST
The Wi-Fi social impact project goes back to the Measles epidemic in November 2019 when La’auli sought help for his constituency’s schools in Savaii under lockdown as connectivity had always been a problem in this area.
It was then discussions started with NetVo Samoa to find a solution to improve connectivity in underserved and remote communities in Samoa; the project was a perfect solution with the Covid-19 lockdown and the impact on student’s classroom learning.
FAST got the agreement and clearance of the School Principals and Village School Committees in Savaii and installation started in June this year.
The project was tested during the recent Gagaifomauga No.3. by-election coverage where connectivity was again identified as an issue in that part of Savai’i Island.
The project will commence in Apolima, Manono and Upolu Islands when Savai’i is completed. The project focuses on providing connectivity to underserved and remote communities in areas of Samoa with little to no connectivity.