People First Network Capacity Building

People First Network Capacity Building

  • 3:01 a.m.

I'll always feel honored and blessed to have been part of the Solomon Islands People First Network, a pioneer rural communication network in the Pacific and finalist for the IPDC-UNESCO Rural Communication Prize for 2003.

Project Details

Name of assignment or project: People First Network Capacity Building Project
Year: 2004
Location: Solomon Islands
Client: Rural Development Volunteers Association (RDVA)
Main project features: remote rural connectivity, technology grassroots adoption, technology training, renewable energy, monitoring and reporting, improve communication, development and education through use of information and communication technologies (ICT), technical vocational education and training (TVET)
Positions held: Trainer, Systems Integrator, Technical Adviser,
Activities performed: conduct ICT training, deploy communication stations in rural locations with no electricity or roads, design and oversee development programs, develop application to monitor and report on usage of rural connectivity network, improve and add new training modules at ICT TVET school


NuzuSys did not exist when this project was taking place but the activities of this project are its very roots. It's through this project the founder and primary consultant of NuzuSys started ICT for development work as a volunteer at first. Work with the People First Network (PFNet), a project of the Rural Development Volunteers Association (RDVA), was a very enriching experience and it's worth while to document some of the activities here.

Summary of Activities

Deploy/Maintain communication stations in rural locations with no electricity or roads was an amazing experience. When your "work day" starts with something that resembles the next photo, you should consider yourself very fortunate.

The PFNet was an early rural connectivity network with "Email Stations" deployed in remote rural locations with no electricity or even good roads with the goal of improving communication services among other development objectives. More on this early technology can be found here and here. The photo at the top of this page is myself conducting training at one such early email station in Avuavu on the weather cost of Guadalcanal. And below is the school and community awareness meeting with the men on one side and women and "pikininis" on the other.

A really fantastic community. It was hard to believe that just a few year prior to that there were atrocities committed in that very region during the civil tension of the Solomon Islands.

Conduct ICT, Scientific and Electrical/Electronics training

working closely the with the technical staff at PFNet I was responsible to provide further training in a number of technical areas:

  • Systems and Network Administration in particular use of Windows server for services such as email and other basic network services (e.g. DHCP, DNS)
  • HR radio communication equipment and Pactor-3 modems
  • Solar electricity and basic electronics
  • Web design and computer programming
  • Early introduction to open source software

Fast forward a few months to a great trip to Isabel province with PFNet's general manager and technical manager and I on a trip to Buala

Design and oversee development programs

An example was the "Talking Truth Project". Talking truth was a radio program hosting RAMSI officials, government officials, and others and discussing issues such as peace restoration, politics, years of tension and other topics. The object of the talking truth project was to facilitate the participation of people living in rural areas with that radio program. Since people in those rural areas did not have any means of communications apart from snail mail they were not empowered to make their voices heard on issues such as politics, democracy, social activities, etc.

The idea of the project was to utilize the PFNet rural network to facilitate the flow of questions from people in rural areas. People in rural areas would send us an email via our HF radio email network, questions were archived in a database, answered by the radio program, and finally we would send back an email with the answers. I'll try to dig up this database and fabulous data which I've certainly archived somewhere and put it here.

develop application to monitor and report on usage of rural connectivity network,

Improve and add new training modules at ICT TVET school RDVA, the parent organisation of PFNet also ran an early TVET school teachings basic ICT skills to unemployed youth. The name of the project was Youth First Computer Center (YFCC) and was considered a "sister" project of PFNet. During my time there I helped improve the training module which were developed as an early version of modular short courses also known as competency based modular short course (CBMSC). I also developed a small simple MS Access database to help manage operations and improve data management skills by staff. Below is a picture of one of the classes being taught basic Internet, Email and office application skills

Alas all good things must come to an end. While my work in development continued since then PFNet is now mostly defunct and replaced by newer projects and technologies. But those not heeding its lessons learned are bound to re-invent the wheel. Below a few pics from my good bye party with the staff of PFNet and YFCC.