Having total access to quality and quantity information online through a faster and high capacity connectivity continues to be a challenge for higher academic institutions in the Pacific region especially Samoa.
Not often that when you talk about Information and Communication Technology (I.C.T), should there be free access to the internet. The conversation seems to be flowing towards meeting economic realities rather than achieving educational goals.
With a student population of close to 3,500 and over 300 staff, the National University of Samoa (N.U.S) I.C.T remains a critical development that requires a large capital investment.
That could be highly likely a thing of the past if the Submarine Cable Project Committee endorses a proposal from the Office of the Regulator (O.O.T.R) for N.U.S and The University of the South Pacific (U.S.P) to get high capacity and faster internet system - free of charge.
The revelation was made this week by the Regulator, Mrs Unutoa Auelua-Fonoti, during her keynote address at the first ever international I.C.T Symposium, jointly hosted by N.U.S and Japan’s Ibaraki University.
“The Regulator as a member of the Submarine Cable Project Committee has already put forward a request to the Minister and the Committee to have a capacity of the cable, made available free of charge to N.U.S and U.S.P for research and other educational purposes,” Mrs Fonoti said.
“And I can tell you now that they gave me a very positive response.”
“This symposium comes at the right moment to give a push to the actions, already being taken by the government,” added Mrs Fonoti. “The government has already implemented theSamoan National Broadband Highway (SNBH).”
“It is the government’s communications network, linking offices throughout Apia as well as other locations as far as Savaii.”
“In the future, this infrastructure will be extended to the private sector and will be used to provide internet services throughout the country.”
It was a gesture well received by the Vice Chancellor and President of N.U.S, Prof. Fui Asofou So’o.
“I want to speak on behalf of N.U.S and U.S.P to thank you for the very honourable gesture of recommending to our government that there’d be free internet provided for us,” said Prof. Fui. “You have given (N.U.S. and U.S.P) a lot of room to do a lot of things that we are not able to do at the moment.”
It’s a call by the Regulator that should be commended as the government is pooling all resources to ensure that I.C.T is prioritised across every sector in line with its Strategy Development for Samoa 2012-2016.
And of course a number of I.C.T initiatives have been implemented to bridge the digital divide including the much awaited Submarine Cable via Fiji to be completed by the end of 2016.
The submarine cable known as Tui-Samoa will be owned by the Government of Samoa in collaboration with its local stakeholders while the O.O.T.R will be facilitating and promoting the best interests of consumers and participants in the I.C.T, postal and electricity sectors through the best combination of competition and effective regulation.
And much to the delight of higher academic institutions like The National University of Samoa (N.U.S) and The University of the South Pacific (U.S.P), the submarine fibre optic cable means high capacity and faster internet system that could well be enjoyed by staff and students for research purposes – free of charge.
“(The Regulator) has an obligation to make sure that everyone has internet access especially education and health,” added Mrs Fonoti. “Not just a capacity but more capacity.”
But there’s more development attested by Mrs Fonoti in her first public speech since her appointment as the Regulator.
“The Office of the Regulator (O.O.T.R), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (M.C.I.T) and its stakeholders have just implemented the first Internet Exchange Point (I.X.P) for Samoa for the first time.”
“All major providers will be connected and we hope that when this is fully operational, we will have more local content in our local websites.”
According to Mrs Fonoti, the I.X.P means local users will receive information faster rather than connecting Samoa to international gateways before receiving it.
In that instance, if an email is sent from town to N.U.S. it will travel to an international gateway such as the United States before it is received in one’s inbox.
Of course this was identified by the O.O.T.R as a bottleneck for its high cost of international loop.
“Furthermore, Cabinet has also approved the proposal by the O.O.T.R and M.C.I.T to have the analogue television switched off in 2017 and introduce the digital television in the same year.”
“We did consultations on this issue and there was positive feedback from the public. This is exciting news for all of us and I’m sure it will be more exciting news for our families in the rural areas.”
“Again O.O.T.R and its partners have already lay down its plans for this major project.”
With a new research to be carried out in 2016 by Mose Mose, a Computing Lecturer at N.U.S. titled Mobile Learning (M-Learning) at N.U.S, it will look at finding an appropriate model for implementing M-Learning in facilitating computing courses.
Not necessarily the latest mobile technology but how to use low-resourced mobiles as a tool of learning.
For the first time also, Mrs Fonoti has revealed that approval had been given to major providers to provide the latest mobile technology.
“That is a 4G L.T.E technology, the very latest technology to be used in Samoa for the first time so this is more exciting news.”
Indeed Samoa is now well underway with a keen commitment to making the integration of I.C.T in education a successful process through the support of the government, stakeholders and education institutions.
For more information about I.C.T, visit us on www.nus.edu.ws or www.facebook.com/TheNationalUniversityofSamoaor twitter@NUSSamoa. For more information about the latest government I.C.T development, visit the Office of the Regulator’s website on https://www.regulator.gov.ws