Churches hail success of WiFi project

The BlueWave Wireless WiFi project that was launched over a month ago in Savai'i for different church denominations has been hailed a success. 

The project, which was previously stopped by the Government, is now offering internet services to underserved villages on the big island.

Reverend Faitua Tanielu of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) at Patamea praised the project, saying it has helped the children of his congregation and the village of Patamea as well. 

"We do know that there has been this problem of lack of or no internet connection here at Patamea," Reverend Faitua told the Samoa Observer. 

"There are families living on the hillside of the village, those families are the ones who have access to the internet most of the times. But for us, living in the low-lying areas, there was little connection for us. 

"However, that has changed since the launching of this project." 

The project has been used for students' assignments and has also assisted the teachers of Patamea Primary School with their work, said Reverend Faitua. 

"The importance of this project, in my belief, is that it has given people the opportunity to access the internet from this part of the island. 

"We have had students coming to us with assignments and I have allowed them to come here and use the internet and my laptop to type their assignments and also do their research. 

"It has also has helped me with my sermons, as I can now have access to the internet any time of the day. The teachers at our primary school also have access to the internet, which helps them get extra educational materials to assist with their work." 

Reverend Faitua used the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of those behind the project. 

"We are so grateful for such a very useful initiative and for such a very useful project. I would like to extend my gratitude to Tony and his team for all their hard work and dedication. 

"In the evening we see people just mucking around on the road with their smartphones and I know they are using the WiFi to connect with their families and friends living afar. 

"Overall, it is a great project."

The Bluewave Wireless WiFi project was officially launched in Patamea on 6 February.

Reverend Taulotoga Viliamu of the C.C.C.S. at Fagamalo shares the same sentiment, saying it has helped the students from his congregation with their studies. 

Another church minister, Reverend Vaueli of the C.C.C.S. Faletagaloa Safune who hosts a study center for the students of the village, said the project has assisted the children of the village with their homework. 

"The project has been a great help for our students," said Reverend Vaueli. 

"It has been five years now since we've started a study center for the children of the village, offering the opportunity for our children to come together to discuss and do their studies together. 

"Help is there when needed with some of the assignments and in the previous years, we had to ask our children working in Apia to assist our students by providing learning materials for the different assignments and researches they bring home. 

"But having access to a good internet connection at home has enabled us to assist our children with their assignments and also give them extra activities we get online. 

"So far, it has been great and we are grateful to those who initiated and worked hard for this project." 

When contacted for a comment, BlueWave Wireless Chief Operating Officer, Togisala Tony Leota said he is happy that the aim of the project has been achieved. 

"The main purpose of the project is to help our people and I am glad that it's coming in handy," he said. 

Moreover, Togisala said the significance of the project is that it offers internet connectivity for villages in Savai'i that have experienced internet connectivity issues.  

While Togisala could not calculate the number of people who are accessing the BlueWave service, he confirmed that 35 different church communities are now utilising it. 

"The 35 [congregations] out of the 41 satellites that have been set up in Savai'i are actually utilising our service for Sunday school purposes and for educational purposes," Togisala added. 

"The other six [congregations] that are not using it, is due to their WiFi not being turned on because of their older generation devices, so they are still trying to get used to it. 

"But in the next week or two, we will open up the opportunity to the children and the people of these communities to access that resource or that WiFi for school purposes. 

"So when talking about statistics, you can look at having at least 50 people within those 35 church communities that are now using our service. That will give you a rough ballpark of the number of people using that service. 

"We are still following up with our communities and pastors to see what their feedback is and teaching and showing them to not only utilise that WiFi but also safeguard it and make it more of a safe and fun learning environment, besides the filtering we have in place already. 

"Again, the purpose of this is to help our children and these communities to have access to these things."

Togisala said he will return to Savai'i in two weeks time to roll out educational programmes for the different church ministers so they know how to utilise the resources. 

"It's free for all the church ministers who have already been connected to the WiFi and there will be another educational programme we will roll out through a partnership with organisations in New Zealand and Australia for our communities and children here in Samoa. 

"Those are actually S.Q.A. New Zealand and Australian certified, so again, we are going through the right channels to make sure that it will be certified in countries like N.Z. and Australia.

"So the WiFi project is the E3 Samoa Trust implemented and part of BlueWave's initiative. BlueWave Wireless is a separate entity. The purpose of this community assistance is to help our community." 

Nevertheless, there will be a second-round to be rolled out to be implemented for other underserved areas in Savai'i, said Togisala. 

"There are still some underserved villages in Savai'i that are needing that assistance and E3 Trust, BlueWave Wireless and Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi are looking into it.

"And then after that, we will move out to Manono and Apolima before we move to Upolu.

"The main purpose why we decided to start off with Savai'i, then to Manono and Apolima before we move on to Upolu is because the most vulnerable and underserved communities and those who need this assistance the most are in Savai'i, Apolima and Manono. I

"I know we still have some underserved areas in Upolu that are needing this service, but we will get there when we're done with the second wave in Savai'i, Apolima, and Manono."

People in Savai'i living near where BlueWave satellites are located can now purchase scratch cards at $5 from local stores within the BlueWave coverage areas. 

Initially, the project had been a part of a previously disallowed free WiFi programme aimed only for public schools in Savai'i. 

That proposal did not win the approval of the Government because it was alleged to have breached procedure and its application did not follow the process.

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