Rensarie Pilot Project

Introduction and Summary

Rensarie UAP Broadband Pilot Project Summary

The Rensarie UAP Broadband Pilot Project (“the Pilot Project”) was a Universal Access Policy (UAP) funded pilot Telecentre site that was implemented on behalf of the Government of Vanuatu (GOV) and project managed by TRR. The beneficiary of the project was Rensarie College (RC); a bilingual college located at Central East of Malekula in Malampa Province, and the village communities around RC.

Goals of the Pilot Project:

To provide the Pilot site’s staff, students and community members with access to Broadband Internet.
To train and empower the Health Centre and Rensarie College  staff, students and community members in utilizing a Broadband connection to improve their livelihood, through the application of a people-centered/participatory approach.

Objectives of the Pilot Project:

To use the Pilot Project as a case study and showcase for future Broadband Internet connectivity projects for the wider rural and remote areas of Vanuatu.
Establish a model for a commercially viable and sustainable Telecentre that could be replicated throughout rural Vanuatu.
Promote and encourage the implementation of rural community ICT services that can contribute to the enhancement of the quality of life of people in rural areas through societal applications.
Stimulate the uptake and demand of Internet access services in High Schools and Health Centers in Vanuatu.
Promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates.
Encourage introduction of ICTs in educational programs and curricula.

The Pilot Project was designed as a multipurpose Telecentre and implemented by TRR in two phases:

1.    First Phase - from July 2011 to November 2012; and
2.    Final Phase - from December 2012 to November 2013.

The First Phase of the Pilot Project commenced during its design and development in July 2011 and twelve months trial from December 2011 to November 2012, under the management and ownership of Incite, a local ICT Company.  TRR had project management, technical auditing and oversight roles during that period. RC and the Rensarie Telecentre Committee (RTC) - that was established in July 2012 to oversee the management of the Pilot Project - did not have an active role in the management and operations of the Telecentre until after the end of November 2012.

The Final Phase of the Pilot Project from 1 December 2012 to 30 November 2013, focused on building capacity and assisting RC to gain practical, hands-on, experience in managing its Broadband Internet access business to enable it to be a self-sustainable entity, in an ongoing capacity, from 1 December 2013. This was facilitated through an agreement between TRR and RC.

TRR provided monitoring and evaluation during the 2 year pilot period (2012 and 2013) and submitted 3 reports (2 progressive reports and a closure report) to the major stakeholders being – the Minister responsible for Telecommunications/ICT, the Prime Minister, The Office of the Chief Government Information Officer (OGCIO), Australia’s Governance for Growth (GfG), the Director General of Education, the Director General of Health, the Rensarie Telecentre Chairman and RC Principal; and other interested parties.

At Pilot Project closure in November 2013, the Telecentre was fully self-sustainable and RC now has the knowledge, resources and energy to make it sustainable; and continues to do so.

The Pilot Project was officially handed over by the Prime Minister Hon. Joe Natuman, to the Rensarie community, during the celebration of the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day in Port Vila, on 16 May 2014.

This Closure Report summarized the Broadband Pilot Project background, its design, execution, project and financial management, issues and challenges faced, lessons learnt and recommendations; particularly in respect of any further Universal Access Policy (UAP) implementations initiatives.

In its closure report of April 2014, TRR informed that TRR and RC contributed significantly to this Pilot in terms of time, financial and human resources and, even though it has now proven to be successful – students, teachers and the Rensarie community have been empowered through this Pilot - TRR did not recommend that such a Pilot program as designed this way be replicated. In that respect, designing, shipping and building a Telecentre on-site was considered to be a far too costly exercise. However, TRR, stakeholders, donors, and the Government have gained experience and learnt invaluable lessons from the Pilot and that it has assisted, and will continue to assist, UA implementation strategies and considerations in the future.

First Phase: July 2011 to 30 November 2012

During this phase, the Rensarie Telecentre was managed by Incite, the local IT Company that won the Tender to build the Telecentre in 2011. TRR had a project management role and was the Executive Sponsor representative.

The Rensarie Pilot area and its surrounding communities had accepted the Pilot Project and uptake of Internet was slowly increasing. RC Principal and Chairman of the RTC, Mr. John Kampai, who championed the project at that time, described RC as experiencing an “information explosion” with increased enthusiasm shown by both teachers and students in teaching and learning methods. As a direct result of the pilot project, RC recorded a 25% increase in success rate for RC Year 12 Anglophone students in their 2012 end of year exam, and an overall student pass rate from 30% to 55%. RC came second in a school competition on Climate Change and owed their win to the availability of an Internet service which enabled them to gather relevant and adequate information for the competition.

Following TRR’s six months review of the project in September 2012, a way forward was agreed between OGCIO representing the GOV, GfG the donor, and TRR. It included an extension of the pilot for another 12 months with RC to manage the Telecentre on behalf of the local community living around RC.

 

Final Phase: 1 December 2012 to 30 November 2013

During the final phase, the pilot project was managed by TRR and operated under the management of RC towards self-sustainability. In January 2013, TRR granted an exception License to RC to provide telecommunication services through the Telecentre, since this project was a Government initiated pilot project, funded under the UAP Fund.

TRR supported RC in capacity building the existing Telecentre staff, providing them with appropriate advice in project and financial management, and organizing targeted training to enhance their business management and technical related skills. This arrangement provided for the project to be managed, for the first time, as a real community project, between RC and the RTC.

In preparation for self-sustainable management and operation, UAP funding was progressively reduced from quarter to quarter until all operational costs were transferred to RC at the end of November 2013.

RC and TRR implemented three sets of 3-month work plans addressing financial, social and technological sustainability. At the end of November 2013, TRR welcomed the significant progress made in the operation and self-management of the Telecentre, especially RC’s preparedness and readiness to continue on as a self-sustainable entity, without additional funding support from UAP funding or TRR.

 

Main Achievements Contributing Towards Telecentre Sustainability

1. Extensive awareness of the project in the village communities to communicate the vision, obtain community support and buy-in.

2. Setting-up of the RTC with representatives from different community groups (RC, Health Centre, Youth, Women, Teachers, Farmers, Small Business Owners, Chief, and Church) to oversee the running of the project.

3. Local champion, Mr. John Kampai, who was also RC Principal and RTC Chairman (at that time) drove the Pilot Project at the community level and contributed to the building of community acceptance.

4. Improved performance of teaching staff and students in 2013.

5. Enhanced capacity building in IT support, maintenance and network administration and management areas.

6. Change of Internet access from an expensive VSAT to a terrestrial link.

7. Development of a 12-month Work Plan and Operational Budget for 2014 with TRR assistance.

8. Significant signs of self-sustainability and progress in the operation and management of the project; especially RC’s preparedness and readiness to step into the year 2014 without additional funding support as a self-funded and sustainable entity.

9. Management and monitoring of project finances by both RC and TRR.

10. Regular TRR monitoring and evaluation during TRR’s technical, assistance and audit trips to Rensarie from 2011 to 2013, and regular on-going monitoring via communication with RC through the First and Final phases.

11. Launch of weekly movie nights for the community as a fundraising activity by the RTC; with money raised used to build a Cinema Hut at the Telecentre.

12. Selection of RC by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) as a recipient of its Digital Campus Program in October 2013 with the extension of RC Computer Lab in November 2013, following constructive dialogue between TRR, AUF and RC.

13. The AUF Digital Campus Program giving opportunity to the Francophone teachers to further their education through any French University that is part of the AUF network, online, beginning January 2014. This program is also available to Anglophone teachers.

14. Successful partnership between RC and AUF resulting in AUF subsidizing part of RC internet access cost since mid-2014.

15. Online access to the University of the South Pacific (USP) Distance and Flexible Learning (DFL) courses for Year 13 leavers.

16. Malampa Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Centre support in funding and providing Small Business Training in 2014, to Telecentre staff and other participants in South East Malekula.

17. RC’s excellent leadership and management, together with its warm and open working environment, greatly contributed to the successful implementation and successful conclusion of the Pilot Project.

18. TRR’s and RC’s individual and joint contributions to this pilot project in terms of time, financial and human resources. TRR also contributed additional funding towards production of a documentary film to track and record history of the Rensarie Pilot Project.

Challenges & Lessons Learn

Challenges Lessons Learnt to ensure success

1. Longer commitment financially, and human resource wise,
2. Raising of sufficient funds for sustainability,
3. Establishing appropriate partnerships,
4. Low literacy,
5. Low exposure to the internet,
6. Low understanding of the benefits of the internet,
7. Slow take-up of Internet
8. Having the right Telecentre Manager,
9. Creating appropriate demand to stimulate internet usage,
10. Lack of local content,
11. Long distance between village communities and Telecentre.

 1. Get early community buy-in and support,
 2. Clearly communicate the vision,
 3. Identify community champions,
 4. Establish partnerships with other organizations,
 5. Set up a local committee to oversee the management and operations,
 6. Ensure community ownership,
 7. Use existing facility to accommodate project,
 8. Identify a Manager early and train him/her,
 9. Provide Technical and Small Business Management training,
 10. Coaching and Leadership,
 11. Targeted training to different groups of users to ensure equity of access,
 12. Run awareness on benefits of Broadband Internet.
 13. Establish other revenue generating streams, other than internet access sales,
 14. Good Management – including financial/accounting, business, marketing, and technical,
 15. Promote online training,
 16. Maintenance of equipment.

 

Rensarie Pilot Project Documentary Film

TRR engaged a local company, Malco Productions, in October 2011 to produce a documentary film to track and record history of the Pilot Project.

A short documentary in Bislama was released in March 2012 and was shown on Television Blong Vanuatu (TBV) and Kommuniti Access Media Television (KAM TV). This documentary film is also available on You Tube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4JOYFZB5bg.

A final documentary on the Rensarie UAP Broadband Pilot Project, since 2011, was produced and released in July 2014 for national and international viewing.  The film “Rensarie: Reaching The Rural community Through Broadband Internet” – is intended to document the full journey of the Pilot Project,  demonstrates the early phases of the project when acceptance of a project as such to a rural community was gauged, lessons learned, successes, and the challenges experienced in implementation of this project. The video is available for viewing at these following links:

http://www.trr.vu/index.php/en/public-register/publications/audiovisual/2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxmU1Uc9azs