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