A group of 16 very enthusiastic and motivated emerging leaders from the Solomon Islands and Australia met in Honiara for two days in November to discuss how improved digital connectivity in the Solomon Islands can enable greater choice of educational opportunities available to Solomon Islanders and the Pacific.
The Dialogue was facilitated and supported by ICDP thought the Pacific Connect initiative. Representatives around the table came from a variety backgrounds, including business, academia, government and not-for-profit sectors. This mix of knowledge and experience generated wonderful energy and constructive discussions between the participants.
The meeting was very timely as it coincided with project funding available from the Technology for Development Challenge announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in September. Through discussion and brainstorming, the Dialogue participants agreed to submit a number of proposals for project funding under this challenge, which aligned with the educational theme of the Dialogue. The funding recipients will be announced in April 2019 after a series of shortlisting in February and March.
The projects that are resulted from the Pacific Connect Dialogue in Honiara are varied and reflect the ideas and input from the participants who brought diverse backgrounds and knowledge to the discussions. The following two submissions where lodged with the Technology for Development Challenge in December through post-Dialogue work between participants, using a dedicated Slack online forum and Google Docs:
- ‘Every Building is a Classroom’
This project is designed to unlock the potential for every building in the Solomon Islands to be a classroom for learning via a digital mapping and data platform. Every Building is A Classroom was identified as a ‘backbone’ activity for a range of complimentary project ideas, as well as addressing the needs of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Education & Human Resource Development (MEHRD). Dialogue stakeholders believe the project is both feasible and viable, as data is currently held by the MEHRD, the national telecommunication companies, and energy providers – with the first two entities being part of the Dialogue and supporting to the idea.
‘Every building is a classroom’ also enabled the expansion of the Pacific Connect network through liaising with the Australian company Hitnet. Hitnet submitted a complementary project proposal to the Technology for Development Challenge which involves the supply of solar-powered internet community kiosks to remote locations in the Solomon Islands to facilitate access to education and other services. Mr Peter Kenilorea Jr, who was a Co-Facilitator of the Pacific Connect Dialogue, has indicated that he is very keen to further explore the idea of a pilot project of the e-kiosk being implemented in the rural area of Are Are in Solomon Islands.
- ‘Critical Factors for Self-Sustaining Women Farmers in the Solomon Islands’
This project is designed to support farmer learning regarding technical and production issues, assist in establishing farmer groups, enable farmers’ engagement with markets via mentoring and coaching. The concept was generated out of Dialogue group discussions which identified educational and training gaps in support for women farmers in the Solomons.
Through the ICDP dialogue, strong networks have been formed, and support and expertise to maximise skills and education are available via a partnership with James Cook University. It is proposed that a digital platform be developed that allows for education, mentoring and coaching to be delivered to rural women farmers within the Solomon Islands. Skills developed by the women farmers will hopefully empower them to supply a strong sustainable workforce labour market both locally and internationally.
Another project that came out of the Dialogue was the development of a proposal to establish the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers hubs in Honiara, and ultimately across the major cities of the Pacific Islands. Currently, there are no Global Shapers Hubs in the Pacific. Given the large population of young people and the development challenges and opportunities in the region, it would be invaluable to establish a network of young local leaders and entrepreneurs who are driving positive change in their communities, while benefitting from the wider Global Shapers international network. A number of members of the Dialogue are currently working on this with key members of the broader Pacific Connect Community and in consultation with DFAT.
As seen from the above, there was very constructive and fruitful outcomes in terms of projects but also from the ongoing discussions and consultation, and the new networks resulting from the Dialogue. ICDP wishes to thank the Dialogue participants for their contributions to the event and post-Dialogue activities and looks forward to their ongoing involvement as part of the Pacific Connect Community and on proposed and future projects.
Tina Briggs is the program manager for the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships. She has extensive experience in project management across government, private, and not for profit sectors and has worked in international development with the Kenyan and Botswanan Red Cross.