A building in Honiara used for education and training

Solomon Islands Technology for Development Challenge wraps up

The Australia Solomon Islands Technology for Development Challenge (SIT4D) has now officially wrapped up! Congratulations to the grantees on navigating new terrain and COVID-19 travel restrictions to develop innovative, technology-based solutions to connect youth to employment opportunities in Solomon Islands.

In 2019, four grantees were chosen from over 50 proposals to develop sustainable, technology-driven solutions with cyber security and privacy inherent by design. The selected projects were:

  • An on-ramp to the new digital economy in the Solomon Islands by Hitnet
  • Olgeta by Catalpa International
  • Online Career Guide by Pasifiki HR
  • Tugeda by Common Code

The goal was for each project to develop a prototype to trial in the Solomon Islands and identify opportunities to develop a scalable business model, which could be pitched to potential investors.

Funded by the Cyber Cooperation Program, the challenge aligns to Australia's International Cyber Engagement Strategy which advocates for using digital technologies to achieve sustainable development and inclusive economic growth in the Indo-Pacific.

An on-ramp to the new digital economy in the Solomon Islands – Hitnet

Aim: Improve young people's access to vital educational and job-related information.

Product: Outdoor touchscreen hubs with Wi-Fi hotspots, fitted with solar panels for off-grid use and connected to the Coral Sea Cable.

Process: Hitnet and partners Earth Water People and Field Ready installed two outdoor, solar-powered touchscreen hubs in Honiara. Supported by strong community engagement, the hubs were locally named ‘Mobile Tutuqu' in Barana (Tutuqu means storyteller in Ghari language of Guadalcanal) and ‘Mobile Tekelea' at Solomon Islands National University (SINU) Panatina (Telekea meaning conch shell in the Vaeakau-Taumako language of Temotu).

14 interactive media channels with locally produced videos were developed for the hubs. This included two successful community-based productions run by Earth Water People with students at SINU and the community at Barana Community Nature and Heritage Park.

Hitnet and partners achieved sustainability and project continuity outcomes by onboarding a local technician and community engagement specialist to finalise the project in the face of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Following hub installation, SINU staff received digital skills training to equip them in training students. The training was also incorporated into the computer studies curriculum.

Field Ready investigated the potential for the hubs to be assembled in the Pacific and found that supplied parts could be assembled in Suva to reduce time and cost and stimulate the technology manufacturing capability of the Pacific.

Results: The hubs are now connecting young Solomon Islanders to the digital world to explore education and career pathways. Local technicians will maintain the hubs, add new content and ensure the hubs are connected to Wi-Fi.  Digital skills training is now seen as an essential step for digital literacy and online safety in the region.

“The T4D Challenge enabled our small social business to branch into the Pacific for the first time. The innovation that we have piloted in the Solomon Islands will be able to be applied to different contexts globally. Our partners in country were wonderful to work with and we now have enduring relationships with various specialists and also our two sites. We look forward to future opportunities to extend the pilot project that we have begun, as the Solomon Islands embarks on its journey to on-ramp to the digital world”.

Julie Gibson, Hitnet CEO

Filming of the ‘Welcome to Barana’ channel for ‘Mobile Tutuqu’
Filming of the ‘Welcome to Barana’ channel for ‘Mobile Tutuqu’

Olgeta – Catalpa International

Aim: Increase ‘future-ready' skills for young women to equip them with the tools to pursue meaningful work and careers.

Product: An e-learning app to assist young people to learn future ready skills for employment.

Process: Catalpa worked closely with participating students and teachers from two rural training centres to incorporate their input and feedback throughout the program design. By doing this, the app was contextualised to meet the specific needs of participating rural women. For many students, Olgeta was their first experience using a smartphone or an online app. In-person workshops and training helped familiarise participants with their allocated smartphone and teach them how to access course materials, including videos, achievement indicators and other interactive features. Students were also encouraged to knowledge share and support one another in learning the app.

Results: Training feedback indicated that the participants' confidence in using a smartphone and in the course subjects improved greatly. Using their newfound knowledge, many students reported having broadened their perspective towards potential career aspirations. Teachers and students used the Olgeta app for up to 5 hours a month, with an average of 3.7 hours per month (monthly usage varied greatly due to COVID-19 lockdowns).

“Olgeta set out to meet the challenges of many remote education programs - limited internet connectivity, a need to fit with students' existing routines, and a focus on the contextual relevance of the learning content. In reality, we had the added challenges of COVID-19 which began to affect Solomon Islands soon after the commencement of implementation. We are proud of what we achieved, and the success of Olgeta can be put down to the strong relationships built through the program co-design process, and the collaboration between Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development officials, teachers and our broader team.”

Kara Chesal, Head of Education, Catalpa International

Students celebrate their completion of the Olgeta program
Students celebrate their completion of the Olgeta program

Online Career Guide – Pasifiki HR

Aim: Assist high school leavers to identify suitable career pathways.

Product: Career Guide online platform, housed within the Pasifiki HR website.

Process: Pasifiki HR held a Facebook campaign in May 2020 to raise awareness of the Online Career Guide. Videos of local influencers, short films and competitions were used to promote the platform and gain interest from high school leavers. The campaign attracted a number of new followers and brought new students to the platform.

Pasifiki HR also visited 15 schools to promote the Online Career Guide and teach students how to use the platform. This comprised two parts – a quiz to help students identify their potential and suitable careers and a ‘how-to' informational guide on how to practically reach the identified careers. The school visits provided a hands-on learning experience where students could complete the career guide quiz.

Results: The Online Career Guide is now a trusted source of information for students considering their career options. The online guide is now grouped into 18 career categories for students to browse, or they are able to take the quiz on the same page.

The team makes sure the career information provided through the online guide is contextualised to the Solomon Islands, so students remained informed of their options. The information is also consistently updated and is easily accessible on smart phones, computers, and tablets.

"Pasifiki HR was privileged to be a part of the challenge which not only facilitated an expansion of our online services but also provided a platform to reach out and support young people of the Solomon Islands"

Edgar Pollard, Director, Pasifiki HR

 

Students at White River School who just completed the Career Guide quiz.
Students at White River School who just completed the Career Guide quiz.
Screen shot of the Online Career Guide website.
Screen shot of the Online Career Guide website.

Tugeda by Common Code

Aim: Assist young Solomon Islanders to have greater access to, and participation in, education and training.

Product: A web platform to enable people to find space for their next education or training event, promote their own buildings for hire, and discover services in the local community (like childcare or accommodation).

Process: Tugeda was designed and built in close consultation with Solomon Island stakeholders to ensure it meets their needs on a practical level. Additionally, Common Code partnered with Pasifiki HR to provide local management of Tugeda, establish a local network, and create a suite of promotional materials.

Results: Tugeda is now a fully functioning website where people can sign up and search for a space to use for educational purposes. With more than 50 buildings listed across the country, users can filter their searches to find the most suitable venue for their education or training event. Additionally, Tugeda has an engaged social media community with thousands of followers across the Solomon Islands. Common Code is continuing to work with Pasifiki HR to bring users onboard and grow the platform further.

“We're excited about the future of Tugeda and continuing our involvement in the Solomon Islands in 2021 and beyond.”

Cameron Neil, General Manager, Common Code

 

The Makira Ulawa Womens Resource Center, one of the buildings available for hire on Tugeda
The Makira Ulawa Womens Resource Center, one of the buildings available for hire on Tugeda
A screen shot of the Tugeda platform showing some of the buildings available.
A screen shot of the Tugeda platform showing some of the buildings available.