By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – 27 OCTOBER 2020: The Free WiFi project that has provided connectivity to at least 10 schools in Savaii, has hit impasse as Government has placed obstacles to block the project.
The project is an initiative of the FAST political party in partnership with the Samoan owned telco company, Netvo Samoa and the E3 Samoa Trust, a non-governmental organisation. It provided free WiFi connectivity to ten schools in Savaii before Government through the Regulators Office stopped it.
The project was initiated by a few Savaii MPs when the measles lockdown in 2019 showed connectivity was the most viable option for isolated students learning. But the problem was the lack of connectivity despite huge government investments in the National Broadband Superhighway, the Schoolnet programme and investment in the Tui submarine cable.
Led by the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi FAST political party Chairman, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi who was critical of the connectivity issue in parliament, the project was negotiated with the village councils and school committees, principals and teachers.
When the project was switched on, there was much praise and acknowledgement from the principals and teachers and students. But not for long, as soon enough, the Minister of Communications and the Office of the Regulator, moved to shut the project down.
When asked in a media conference yesterday, FAST Chairman, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata’ivao Fosi said the difficulties now faced by the free Wi-Fi connectivity project for schools in Savaii was due to Governments dirty politics and jealousy.
“Government is embarrassed because despite the huge investment, the National Broadband is a failure, the Schoolnet project failed and here Netvo provided a free Wi-Fi project that has worked for Savaii island students and teachers and they’re blocking it to due their dirty politics,” said La’auli.
La’auli said it’s been a month since the program was blocked by Government, and the issue has taken a turn for the worst.
FAST let Netvo negotiate with Government and sort out what the Regulators office was asking in-order for both parties to reach an amicable solution for the project to proceed as it is a useful for the students and teachers.
La’auli said Netvo was also advised to handle the matter diplomatically with Government and find ways to resolve it, “but it seems FAST involvement with the project is impacting negatively on Netvo because of this issue.”
FAST waited until after the election candidates’ registration last week before turning their full attention on the issue.
“The matter is now with our lawyers,” said La’auli.
The free Wi-Fi project is under Netvo’s social project through the E3Ts- a non-governmental organisation in partnership with Kacific Satellite Services and FAST.
A Community project providing Free WiFi Connectivity to Primary schools, Colleges and Mission schools in Savaii was launched 20 September 2020.
At least ten (10) Primary Schools were switched on in early September 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 0700 to 4.00 pm to teachers and students on school days as connectivity remains an issue for Samoa.