Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hail Jimmie!

This morning I went to a video conference at SPC themed around communications access for remote/rural areas. Jimmie Rodgers, SPC Director-General, spoke about many things, and once again, as he did during PacINET 2006 in Samoa, he highlighted the sometimes lack of political will and real leadership in the Pacific. He also made a strong statement on telecom monopolies and regulation in the Pacific, and the impact they have on development issues. He suggested that countries take a long hard look at their monopolistic regulatory framework and assess the real impact this has on economic and social development. He also stated that having a digital strategy as part of the pacific plan did not mean much when there was no real committment by all stakeholders in seeing it through. Kudos to you again Jimmie. I said last year before he got appointed as SPC's Director-General that he was the right person for the job, and re-iterate again he is indeed the right person for the job; and is leading the charge from the front unlike others who tend to cloak and dagger behind bureaucratic and political smoke screens.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reflections on Samoa

The only thing consistent about taxi fares in Apia is their inconsistency - wildly varying rates from point A to point B. On the night we left, We booked a taxi to take us to the Airport. Earlier in the week I had asked one of the taxi vans I used how much it was to go to the Airport from the hotel. He told me $52 and I took his card. I tried calling him several times during the day of departure and he did not respond, so I booked another taxi (who quoted $50). On the night the new guy I booked apparently mentioned to the him that he was taking a group to the Airport and straight away the first guy gets upset with the new guy saying he is supposed to be taking us. I told them to sort it out as I had booked the second guy as the first gave no response. Anyway they sorted themselves out and the first guy ended up taking us. At the Airport he wanted $62 - I told him to take a hike. After several minutes of arguing, he took the $52 and wished us a pleasant flight. Moral of the story - stand your ground!

Other than that Apia is a nice little town (actually one of the larger in the Pacific) to visit. The locals are generally friendly, though some come across as indifferent. If you are the religious type (of the Christian faith), then there are Churches galore for you. Food is expensive in the restaurants and my general impression is that hotels are also a bit on the expensive side. Well worth a visit though, and the beaches on the other side of Upolu are OK, even saw some decent waves off-shore so surfing may be possible as well (I did see many surfboards on top of cars). And there is a McDonalds in town if all else fails cuisine wise (and they are open later than most of the other restaurants). If visiting for R&R then head to one of the resorts outside of Apia. I went to Sinalei Resort and that is quite nice.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Last Day in Apia

Today I did a bit of shopping with my better half in town and then spent the afternoon at CSL talking about VoIP and other technologies the company I work for is engaged in selling. It was a bit of a change from the past week to get into commerical mode again.....the evening was dinner at a Japanese restaurant accompanied by the last couple of bottles of Vailima, the local brew and then off to the Airport to catch our flight back home!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 6

I started off this morning's session with Wolf on GIS and then handed over to Franck to chair the rest of the day as I had to catch up on some work and spend some time with some of the delegates who wanted to talk with me privately. There were FOSS and WIT workshops before lunch, where it appears we now have a FOSS SIG as well. I am a bit concerned with the WIT SIG as they seem to have lost the plot in the pre-workshop forum, and listening in to a bit of their deliberations, it seems nothing much has changed. It would be a bit silly for a man to tell a Women in Technology SIG what they are all about and I hope they pull their socks up, focus and get their act together.

The afternoon saw the IPv6 tutorial by Miwa Fujii from APNIC. This went well and also provided an overview of APNIC and what it does. For the technical ones amongst the audience it was probably a bit too simplistic, but still a good introduction. We look forward to doing such tutorials within the larger ISOC family. I stressed Miwa a bit on IPv6 address range allocations for small island countries - hey someone had to do it!

The PacINET 2007 round-up session was good and I had been speaking with various delegates throughout the conference on their thoughts and view of the conference, and there was positive feedback all around. I have not received anything negative so far. Next year we intend to split the conference into a technical and non-technical stream so that all tastes are catered for, and the techies can come just to attend the technical bits. Its hard for an organisation to have their system admins away for over a week. The evening was low key (some called it an anti-climax after the stress of the past week) but it was good to wind down. Tommorrow we are off on a beach picnic to the other side of the island for a bit of R&R.

PacINET 2006 Day 5

The morning started off with a bang on a contentious issue for most telecom carriers and governments in the Pacific - VoIP. Franck demonstrated Asterisk and the lessons they at SOPAC learnt from replacing their traditional PBX with a full IP based one. I followed with a brief on VoIP and explained VoIP and how they are applied in traditional environments. Naturally this included issues which freak telcos - toll bypass......

Vint and I left shortly after for more PR visits at a Special Education school and then lunch at Sinalei Resort on the other side of Upolu. Not a bad place at all, except it was blowing nigh a gale so we had fun holding down the table and the contents on it. On the way back we called in to SPREP where we were given a brief of their activities and Vint briefed them on and its sponsorship of various issues including the environment. Vint also wanted a new software tool he recently discovered that presented data in a timescale manner - quite interesting as it gives an overview of change through time. It was quite funny that SPREP thought Vint was there to sell them the software and were a bit taken aback I suppose when Vint said the software was free! We returned to the conference venue afterwards where I smuggled Vint into a private room so he could do some work undisturbed. I then returned to the main session room to catch up on a bit of work.

The evening saw the official farewell dinner and Vint was presented the usual round of gifts to take back. On behalf of PICISOC, I presented the PM of Samoa with a WiFi SIP VoIP Phone to a round of applause from the attendees - let's see if this leads to VoIP being legalised! Vint chipped in to say that the phone came with batteries but needed the regulatory framework to work.........we had an impressive display of fire-dancing by the Samoans which was fun. Earlier we had also toured the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, the venue for the dinner, which was quite interesting in itself.

After a whole lot of dancing (and getting the band to sing happy birthday for Alisi from Forum Secretariat) Vint, Gunjan and I went back to the hotel to help Vint pack all his stuff as he was leaving later than night. We were quite impressed with ourselves as we managed to squeeze a whole lot of stuff into not a very big box. Afterwards we were off to the Airport (and Vint was back in his usual impeccable tailoring - rather than the island shirts he was in for the last couple of days). We spent a bit of time chatting in the VIP lounge before seeing him off on the tarmac to board his flight. After he got on the plane, there was an audible sigh of relief from the assembled members of the Samoan OrgCom and back to the hotel for a few hours sleep as it was around 3am by the time we got back.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 4

Today began with the sad announcement that Keith Davidson's (InternetNZ) father had passed away so Keith had to return to NZ. Our thoughts are with Keith and his family.

As Keith was supposed to be first up today, I had to put in something else to fill his slot. My victim was John Crain, CTO, ICANN. I asked John to come to PacINET quite late - a last minute thing and kudos to him for making the effort to come down. I also got him to do several pretty much impromptu presentations through his stay, including filling Keith's slot with a presentation on DNS. The morning was spent on discussing Internet issues. Desiree Miloshevic also came down to Samoa and she covered Network Neutrality, which was an interesting perspective. The net neutrality debate is rearing its ugly head in the Pacific as well and is a worry. Resistance must not be futile.....

This morning I received confirmation from ISOC on funding for a project I want to run - a baseline survey of Internet in the Pacific. I shared the news first with Vint Cerf which resulted in a bit of happy back-slapping where I was the victim. My project will be available on

Harry McConnell was kindly back with us this year and we did a video link-up with him in Brisbane and 2 of his colleagues in Los Angeles. The session was interesting and we hope to continue this as a regular part of PacINET.

Next was an impromptu roundtable where I chose 2 teams (one for, one against) of 3 members from the audience present to debate a topic of my choice (which I provided after selecting the teams). Six brave members were given the topic "Censorship on the Internet" to debate. After some intense statements and a round of rebuttals my winning choice (in terms of the arguments presented) was the for team, however I personally do not condone censorship of the Internet and am against it.

I spent the afternoon on some PR visits and meetings with Vint so missed the PacINET sessions, but I understand the presentations were well received. The evening was spent at a private dinner with conference sponsors and the private sector. Some interesting discussion ensued on local politics, the Pacific and with lots of diversity in the range - we even covered global warming, melting ice shelves, wine, and, naturally, ICT and Internet issues.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 3

Vint and Miss Samoa made the headlines and front page of this morning's newspaper :)

During a breakfast meeting, Vint and I continued where we left off last night and then headed off to the conference venue which today was at the National University of Samoa. Today was the big show and tell day. The Prime Minister of Samoa led the introduction of Vint who then presented his keynote on the state of the Internet and what the future holds. Jimmie Rodgers, SPC Director-General followed Vint, and he had some bold and candid comments to make on the state of the Pacific and the lack of political will by some Pacific leaders. Last year I said, Jimmie was the right person for the position he now holds, and I reiterate the statement this year. We need more leaders like him.

The PacINET Forum discussed how we can build the Digital Pacific. We heard several perspectives from panellists (who were from varied backgrounds and areas of expertise) covering policy, political, technical and social impacts and challenges. The conclusion I drew was that it is important to use appropriate technology, and sometimes the fastest and biggest is not necessarily the best solution. We need to have cheaper and wider access to broadband technologies, and must seriously consider aggregation of available bandwidth to ensure we truly move towards a digital pacific, and to an information or knowledge based society. Broadcast radio is also an important tool in achieving this and sometimes we forget that broadcast radio is king in the Pacific, and we must find new ways to use this to meet the digital pacific objectives. Vint Cerf summarised this as "novel and new use of old delivery mechanisms". Overall the forum was interesting and there was interactive between the panellists and audience as well as the webcast audience.

The afternoon saw the PICISOC AGM. There was an address by Vint to the AGM followed by the usual stuff. Of interest is the establishment of various new SIGs including IPv6 and New Media amongst others. Solomon Islands will host PacINET 2007 in Honiara in August. The involvement of Pacific Island countries in ICANN's GAC was also emphasised. The AGM concluded without any major drama.

The evening saw Vint and myself at a private dinner with the Samoan Prime Minister and selected Government officials. Some interesting discussions and let's see how they play out.

Cerf's Up in Samoa

Vint Cerf was accorded VIP status by the Samoan Government. This also meant he got a VIP car and a security escort, which was interesting. As well as priority access on and off the plane and access to the VIP lounge, etc. etc. As his "chaperone" and sidekick during his stay I was also offered the same priviledges which I found quite amusing. I and the welcome party (which happened to include Miss Samoa) got access to the tarmac so we could get to him as soon as he got out of the plane. We were expecting him to be one of the first off the plane, but this wasn't so and there was a bit of worry in the welcome party whether he was on the plane or not. I had been in touch with him as he sat at various airports en route so knew he would be in it somewhere. Then I got a glimpse of a 3-piece suit and pointed him out to Miss Samoa (and she got really excited) and the rest of the welcome party. It was good to see him again and welcomed him to Samoa followed by a scramble to get hold of his baggage claim ticket and passport so this could be priority cleared by the OrgCom whilst he enjoyed the company of Miss Samoa and the traditional dancers. In the VIP lounge was also the Czech Ambassador who was on a courtesy call to Samoa. Turns out he had an IT background and immediately recognised Vint which basically led to an intense photo session (with a video cam thrown in for good measure). After all this (and picking up Vint's bags) we headed off toward Apia and Aggie Grey's Hotel where we both were staying. En route I briefed him on what was planned for the 3 days he was in Samoa. At Aggie Grey's Hotel, he got the presidential suite, which was quite nice. I ended up spending another 3 hours in a meeting with all the excitement and in-depth discussions, we forgot the main topic - world domination!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 2

Yesterday evening's CROP-ICT meeting was perhaps the best attended in recent times. There is some talk about the direction this should take. Currently it is policy only. What I think it needs is some teeth to bite. The evening function was good with many merrily indulging in the local brew, and the obligatory unco-ordinated dancing (or attempts to dance), yours truly included. I also made the front page of the local newspaper with a picture of me and the Samoan PM (in full colour!) with the headline: "Bridging the Digital Divide". Hmmm.........

Today we had a parallel session with the mapserver maniacs being shut in a room with Franck.....scary :) The main session was themed around e-Pacific. Don's presentation of a day in the life of an ICT enabled Pacific village was interesting as usual, but I wonder when we will see that day. I hope it is in the very near future. Other presentations covered what was happening with various projects in the Pacific as well as Prof. Saga with his presentation on Japan's policies and activities on ICT and linkage to the Pacific Islands. Unfortunately Don had to leave the conference due to a family emergency. We will miss his input (as well as the several sessions he was involved with). The afternoon session saw the Utilities roundtable and it was great to have Phill Hardstaff back this year. This was followed by an interesting presentation from Katherine O'Callaghan on incident management. This is part of her PhD thesis and apparently PacINET 2006 was the first time it had been introduced outside of her research group. It was good to see some academics turn up this year and I hope this grows. The CROP ICT working group continued in the evening, but I had to go pick Vint Cerf.

Bank on Wheels

One really neat little thing organised by the local OrgCom was the presence of a mobile bank. A van (outfitted with a teller booth, etc.) would drive up during breaks and delegates could take care of their banking needs (e.g. currency exchange, etc.) and this worked really well. Great initiative by the OrgCom and the bank involved.

Monday, August 21, 2006

PacINET 2006 Day 1

We kicked off PacINET 2006 this morning. It was interesting to hear from the Prime Minister of Samoa on his thoughts on the need and use of ICT. In an interesting chat with him during the morning break, I found out that he initially saw the potential of and pushed Internet way back in 1995, which would make him one of the pioneers of Internet in the Pacific. John Budden gave an update on the progress of the Digital Strategy and what work is being done in that context. We also learnt about Samoa's ICT progress and their plans in the short-term. The WIT group presented their plans for the Women in Technology workshop later this week. The afternoon was an UNESCO session covering blogging and Fiji's e-chutney project. We also had a review of PacINET 2005 and what positives came out of that for Kiribati. Its pleasing to note that the wireless network installed for the Parliament building is being put to good use. All up the first day has been good, with comments from the floor contributing well to PacINET's objectives. This evening is a CROP-ICT working group meeting followed by an official function hosted by the Prime Minister for PacINET delegates.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

All systems are go

There was a mini-invasion of the conference venue this evening when around 20 of us showed up for preparatory work (and others to have a chat and catch up). The webcast is being engineered now and looks like it will work well (at least we hope it does!).

All looks well for PacINET 2006 and we have the Prime Minister of Samoa launching PacINET 2006 tommorrow morning.

Let's see how PacINET 2006 plays out!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Made it to Samoa

Well we made it to Samoa......and first impression of Apia is that is fact very very clean and general consensus amongst some of us is that its likely the cleanest town/city in the Pacific.....

We spent the afternoon going over the logistics and preparations with the local OrgCom followed by a visit to the venue at the SamoaTel offices. The main room is a bit small - I would have liked to be able to fit in at least a 150 people, but the room can do only around a 100. On the positive side, we have 3 other rooms at our disposal, so the Workshops are well catered for, as well as a private meeting room and space for the conference secretariat.

The Internet is also up.......and we will be working on the webcast tommorrow......

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Off to Samoa

I am off to Samoa this weekend. Its PacINET time again......with Samoa as the host. It is going to be the largest PacINET ever with several Workshops running and 30-odd speakers. More information on PacINET 2006 available here

Its a terrible flight to get to Samoa. Leave Suva at 4pm, get to Nadi around 7:30pm, and attempt to kill hours for the 145am departure.....oh well.....the things we do and the choices we make.........

Friday, August 04, 2006

The New News Medium Part II

The other thing I see quite often now is the use of broadband to deliver (live) news feeds by some of the traditional networks. The quality is so-so with a fair bit of pixelation, but still acceptable by my reckoning......of course an interesting bit of information would be the amount of money these networks are saving by using the Internet to deliver an outdoor broadcast feed. I would imagine the cost of the Internet access would be significantly less than that of say buying satellite segments to broadcast the feed. Needless to say this will lead to some impact to satellite revenue as the quality of video over broadband improves.....and improve it will.........and quickly.