Arriving at Patukai

Patukai was a half-hour canoe ride from Uepi. By then I had learned that “canoe” refers to just about any water-vehicle in the lagoon: engine-powered or paddle-powered. (Ours had an engine.)

When I arrived, I was met by Brian Bird, with whom I had been exchanging emails prior to my arrival, who is the head principal of the Patukae schools—both primary and secondary levels. Brian is pictured above with his family (although his son is not in the picture).

Brian was responsible for initiating and carrying through with the RICS project and partnership described in the previous post, and he gave me further details about that project. I took notes as quickly as I could as he explained about the three stages of the RICs project, in terms of what it meant for Patukai.

Stage 1 involved getting the partnership, and then the equipment set up. Their Internet connection came in October, 2007, while the first (~35) OLPC XOs arrived in early 2008, and were given to the grade 1 students.

In Stage 2, grades 2-6 received laptops (about 105 of them), which happened in January, 2009.

Stage 3 is in the future, when a satellite and FM radio station is to come, which can be used for all kinds of community-building purposes, including education, news reporting, and local awareness-raising (as it will be available over the Internet to the entire world).

However, it soon became clear that Brian wanted to show me the equipment I was asking about, so I grabbed my camera and followed him on a tour of the Patukai area.

First was the 1.5 meter (diameter) satellite dish I would spend the next few days looking at, as I was staying in the room next to it, as pictured above. This was the first and only time on my trip where I had Internet connectivity, and I took advantage!  In fact, Brian was not the only person to excitedly tell me about some visitors from Colorado who had come the month before, who had taught them how to use Skype. I figured, from the level of interest, that Skype was a major hit! Patukai was also looking forward to the arrival in the next month or so, of people coming from Scots College in Sydney (again, mentioned in a previous post), who were supposed to be bringing a server, some computers, and were going to be providing some computer training, as well. (He told me that this deployment was supposed to have included a server, but it never arrived.)

Brian further explained to me that one way they can earn some money to pay for their share of the Internet subscription fees was by offering their Internet connection, for a fee, to yachts and sailing ships that are passing through their part of the lagoon.

The school has a generator that charges the XOs at night, and they’ve rationed them out to make the maximum use of the laptops in class. For the future, a major concern will be replacing the XO batteries, as this deployment has been in place for a few years now, and we all know how laptop batteries do not last forever. For now, however, they do not have the financial capabilities to pay for this. Additionally, when laptops need fixing, they must send them to Honiara (the capital), which is not only expensive because they must be sent on airplanes, but it’s an expense that they don’t have funds to cover.

Finally, the tour.

Pictured above is the area behind the Patukai schools, and the repeater over which  their satellite dish sends the Internet on through to the hospital pictured below on the left (it’s the tiny white building near the shoreline). Below on the right, in the distance is the mountain where another repeater is located. From here, the Internet is sent on to Uepi Island, where I had just visited.

Below this text are pictures of the main secondary school grounds, seen from the back, then from the front.

And finally, here is the primary school, where we’ll go in the next post, where the XOs are being used.

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About ljhosman

Laura Hosman is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Illinois Institute of Technology
This entry was posted in OLPC, Pacific Islands, Solomon Islands, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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