The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) and the Australian Government are partnering in an innovative project to strengthen telecommunications amongst Provincial Education Offices in Torba, Penama and Malampa. Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) have been purchased from Pacific Networks (PacNET), a locally owned ICT service provider established by Mr. Peter Namak who is an Australia Awards alumnus. Mr. Namak graduated with a Master of Science – Internet Working from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), in 2017. Mr. Namak explains ‘One of my aims of undertaking an Australian Awards scholarship was to return and start my own technology company. During my studies at UTS, I was introduced to UTS Startup which is a university program to help students start their own company, and this is where it all started. I wanted to help local businesses, and the wider Vanuatu, to deliver world class technology solutions and services‘.
It was during these UTS Networking sessions that Mr. Namak broadened his social network and was introduced to various data centres in Sydney. Mr Namak also embraced the opportunity to work with a local technology company called Relative Technologies who assisted him in gaining access to Equinix Datacentre, providing him with the servers to start his own website hosting business. To date, Mr. Namak still manages and operates his data centre and frequently travels to Sydney to maintain his servers so he can continue to offer cloud services in Vanuatu at affordable prices because of lower internet and power costs in Australia.
VSATs operate as a very small aperture terminal that is a small-sized earth station used to transmit/receive data, voice and video signals over a satellite communication network. The solution will be used within disaster recovery to communicate with the Ministry of Education in case of any inter-island telecommunication service outages or in the case of a natural disaster such as cyclones.
Often referred to as ‘Internet-In-A-Box’, the VSAT solution is fully solar powered with internet provided directly from the satellite. It can be installed anywhere within Vanuatu and is not dependent on a local telecom operators’ network.
This will ensure MOET can continue to deliver their services in even the most very remote locations throughout the islands of Vanuatu; assisting the Provincial Education Offices, schools, students and teachers alike. The VSATs will also provide access to online teaching and learning resources for students and teachers to engage with.
‘We have cyclones every year and with the current state of emergency it is very important to activate our disaster recovery plans into action. VSATs are an important component within our response because it allows us to collect more information and communicate back to the Ministry, providing firsthand information about our schools for an immediate action rather than waiting for a national disaster team to be deployed‘ Mr. Namak further explains.
The experienced PacNET team, who have a broad understanding of system integration and management, have completed the initial installation of these devices whilst also upskilling local staff within the Provincial Education Offices to manage them. This will include cyclone preparedness procedures that are tested with the local staff under PacNET’s supervision, ensuring this locally led approach provides a sustainable solution that can be relied upon when it is most needed.
The Penama Provincial Education Office sees great benefit to having this sort of technology at their disposal, stating ‘Thanks to VESP for supporting the Ministry, we now have a reliable VSAT connection. Whenever there are strong winds, all three major networks go down, but with this system we can communicate well. It ensures we are able to remain connected‘.
Australia Awards scholarships are supported by the Australian Government and are offered at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Applications are invited in areas of study that align with the Vanuatu National Sustainable Development Plans and the skills gaps identified in Vanuatu’s National Human Resource Development Plan (NHRDP).
The 2025 scholarship intake invites applications from February 1 2024 and closes on April 30 2024 for those wishing to apply. Visit australiaawardsvanuatu.org to find out more information about how to prepare for your application or you can visit the Australia Awards Vanuatu (AAV) office at Vila Mall, or call on 22114.