Telecenter

Background

Government commenced the Telecentres project on 7 October 2011, by launching three sites simultaneously across Suva, Levuka and Rakiraki. The pilot phase involved co locating these centres with Schools IT labs, which is utilized by school students during the day and the community during the evening and weekends.

The telecentres are all supervised by paid volunteers and security is maintained for the duration of the opening hours.

There is a registration process for users who have to submit a valid identification card before been authorized to use the PC’s. Each user is allowed a maximum of two – thirty minute usage interval.

Observations from On-Going Pilot Phase

An analysis of usage data thus far reveals:
  1. Different demands for operating hours of telecentres are observed for different sites. In Suva the demand is high on weekdays Monday through to Thursday, with little users during Friday through to Sunday. In Levuka, the telecentres are often busy during the early evening, with sites being less popular after sunset. The same was also observed for Rakiraki, although there are more demand for use by the community during weekends.
  2. A Potential abuse of resources are seen when printing services are free, when users would print irrelevant materials, most of which are never collected from the printer.
  3. A high demand for services such as Facebook and social networking sites, which are currently blocked by the Telecentres firewall due to request of the hosting schools.
  4. An average of sixty community users visit the telecentres in a week. This is in addition to students that use the PC’s during school hours.
  5. The current team of three volunteers per site exceeds the demand for assistance required by users.
  6. While hosting these telecentres with schools have obvious benefits, there needs to be alternative set up modes which can make telecentres services available to community during day time.
  7. There has been no downtime reported at the sites attributed to PC malfunctions.

Future Plans for Government Community Telecentres

Based on the observations made during the pilot phase the following are recommendations presented to the Minister and the Permanent Secretary concerning future rollout of telecentres.

  1. Government needs to adopt a multi-mode of implementation whereby different modes of set up will be used for different locations. While co locating with school sis a good idea, there is also a need to establish a setup which allows the general public access to services during the day.
  2. For this purpose, it is proposed that the telecentres network be expanded to include :
    • Regional Provincial Offices
    • Regional Government Agencies / FIRCA Offices/Medical centres
    • Agencies that are highly frequented by public
  3. These centres will ensure that the facilities are available to the general public during working hours. These can be co-located with the above agencies near the reception area which will ensure that the facility will be under constant supervision of the staff manning the reception.
  4. Under this set up, the need to hire volunteers are minimized as the staff of this facility can be assigned roles of supervision.
  5. This will also fit in well with Government’s current plan to ensure all Provincial Offices are incorporated within the government network.
  6. Future rollout planned in a manner that supplements activities under the National Broadband Action Plan and the government initiative to link all provincial offices to the Government ITC network.

Other Initiatives

In addition to establishing telecentres across schools and government agencies, we should also consider a mobile telecentres service. This can be done through securing and outfitting an appropriate vehicle with PC terminals and a satellite to secure an internet connection. This mobile services can then be used to visit rural locations throughout Fiji where permanent setups are difficult to establish given challenges with infrastructure, power and internet connections through mobile or fixed line service.

The concept can also be applied to the maritime islands, where we can utilise a vessel that will sail from island to island, and delivering mobile internet services to people.