Inveneo Micronesia Archives
- Posted by Inveneo on June 12, 2015 in the categories: News
Longtime Inveneo friend and colleague Dr. Laura Hosman has led her students this past semester on an exciting digital library project at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. One of the project’s leaders, Cecillia Tran, is a 5th year Liberal Arts Engineering Studies Major, and she recently spoke with Inveneo to give an explanation of the ICT project. She has been inspired by how people can make a powerful impact just by using older technology in inventive ways. Read the interview below.
- Inveneo: What is the SPELL Project?
SPELL stands for Solar Powered Educational Learning Library. Students in the Federated States of Micronesia as well as Vanuatu have no access to Internet or electricity in their schools. Our solution was to create and donate 50 solar-powered mini servers, pre-loaded with educational content, that could be connected to any WiFi enabled device through a WiFi dongle. The educational content our team curated onto an SD card was based through extensive research of what levels of education were needed on the islands. Some of the materials used were various Khan Academy videos on subject matters such as math, writing, and science. Due to a recent typhoon, we also decided to upload weather related content so students are better prepared if another accident were to happen.
Dr. Laura Hosman (left) with several of her students working on the SPELL project.
- Since the Banana Pis are going to Chuuk, will the educational content be in English, Chuukese, or another language?
The educational content will be in English, since students are required to learn English in the classroom. However, there will be some content that is in Chuukese.
- What is the role that students play within the SPELL Project?
We divided into four teams. There is a contents and deployment team who are responsible for researching and curating the educational materials that is put on the SD card. There is a design team responsible for creating the outer shell for the mini-server itself so that there is a protective casing and an attached solar panel to power the server. We also have a SPOT team (systems performance optimization team) that is responsible for testing and configuring the Banana Pi (mini server) and WiFi dongle. And also, we have a promotions team that is responsible for the marketing and branding of the project. We even created a website and logo for the team.
- How will this project made a difference in Micronesia?
This project will give students who don’t have access to Internet or electricity a new way to receive their education. They will have the chance to be able to interact with electronic devices that many of us are fortunate enough to have easy access to. Our contents team is working very hard to provide a good, substantial amount of information and educational materials that would be helpful. The platform could possibly open their minds and eyes like never before.
- What lessons have you learned from this project?
I think we learned a lot of real world skills, especially teamwork; our class was composed of students from many different backgrounds of education. For example, we have many liberal arts and engineering studies majors, as well as electrical engineering, computer science, journalism, graphic communication, and political science. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and have seen many different perspectives as we’ve moved along through different parts of the project. We also learned that projects will not always go as planned. We have hit many bumps in the road and have had to change directions, but it was a good experience for all of us. We managed to work our way through them. Finally, we learned a lot about Chuuk and the islands, what educational access they have, and how we can make a difference. That’s what excited me about this class: this project really could make a difference and we could reach out to people who are in need. It’s exciting to be a part of a project that would go beyond the classroom and make a tangible difference that matters in the world.
- What can the ICT community learn from SPELL’s experience?
I think it’s amazing what a difference a small group of 15 people can make. We were donated 50 Banana Pi brand units, given as part of LeMaker’s non-profit educational program. We turned them into a powerful educational tool that we believe could make a real difference in Chuuk students’ lives, as well as other countries, that may not have Internet access or electricity in their schools.
The ICT community should be aware that anything can make a difference. Products that one may think is outdated can be turned into something incredible that would help people. Sometimes it’s the small but innovative changes that can make a big impact.
- Posted by Inveneo on January 28, 2015 in the categories: Jobs, News
Inveneo is accepting applications for a spring internship position to assist in creating an Offline Digital Library Project targeted for small Pacific island schools.
Deadline March 15th, 2014
This internship program is an international development initiative, with the objective of using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to foster education in primary schools.
The principal development impacts are anticipated to be:
1) Empowerment of the rural schools and youth through increased and affordable access to information and communication tools
2) Developed leadership and skills in ICT4D
2015 marks the second year of Inveneo’s internship program focused on ICT and the emerging regions of the world. Inveneo is unique in its scope and approach to connecting those who need it most, with ICT4D work carried out in over 30 countries including in Oceania, Haiti, and across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The main work would be focused on improvement to the Rachel Pi server to meet project needs in the Pacific Islands, specifically in the Philippines, Micronesia, and Vanuatu.
Key areas of focus are:
- Porting Rachel Pi software (linux based) from Raspberry Pi hardware to Banana Pi hardware
- Web-based interface for Rachel Pi to add new content
- Program for easy creation of micro SD card with new content by non-computer science people
- Captive portal feature added to Rachel Pi server OS/Web interface
The position will be based in Inveneo’s San Francisco, CA office. The goal will be about four hours per week at the Inveneo office in San Francisco.
A strong academic record with a minimum of 3.0 GPA
Proven ability in Linux and web server skills
Ability to work effectively independently
To apply for this internship, please send a cover letter and resume/CV to Inveneo’s Media Manager Jana Melpolder, and include “Spring Internship” in the subject line.
Selected candidates will be contacted by email to schedule a phone interview.
Deadline for applications is March 15, 2014. Good luck!
- Posted by Inveneo on June 11, 2014 in the categories: Education, News
Inveneo recently joined with Illinois Institute of Technology’s Professor Laura Hosman to lead student teams in addressing the challenges facing off-grid schools that want to harness ICTs to improve educational opportunities for local students. Bridging together their hard work, skills, and efforts, the student teams successfully developed the SolarCubed ICT Lab, which is a portable solar computer lab in a box that can be conveniently transported to developing schools in need of technology.
A school in Chuuk, Micronesia
SolarCubed was initially deployed to a school in the island state of Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2012. Chuuk is one of four states that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The FSM consists of approximately 607 total islands strewn about the Western Pacific that maintain an average temperature of around 87 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Chuuk is the most populous of the states and is home to 11 main lagoon islands and 14 surrounding atolls and lower islands. There is a very high population of youth on these islands.
After the first SolarCubed deployment, it was discovered that the technology was not being used in the school in Chuuk as hoped. What was contributing to the lack of technology use? One of Dr. Hosman’s classes recently created a technology readiness site survey that would determine a school’s readiness and capacity to make use of the solar-powered computer lab. This baseline survey was made to have a factor of universality so it could be used in many different locations around the world to evaluate existing conditions.
With the leadership of Prof. Hosman and partnership of the Inveneo team, the class was given the opportunity to push the envelope on ICT initiatives even further. Inveneo was a huge help when it came to getting this team to think critically from a global point of view. The students wanted to facilitate the survey via Android mobile devices, so that it could be administered on-the-go on the most commonly used devices across the developing world.
When the class started in the spring semester of 2014, the students learned that simply providing the SolarCubed ICT Lab to less privileged schools was not an effective method to helping them take advantage of this technology efficiently. The main challenge was figuring out the best way to know which schools could be considered “ready” to make use of the technology, in terms of both the infrastructure and the human side of things, while not being able to travel to Chuuk ourselves.
The class was tasked with creating a technology readiness site survey designed to capture the attitudes of school administrators and teachers towards ICT and the school’s capability of sustaining it. The survey would be administered on a mobile device (for ease of use by the survey administrator), and local partners in Chuuk would be the ones carrying out the survey. Although connectivity would not be a necessity while the survey enumerators were administering the survey, they would eventually upload the survey data to us back in Chicago. The class planned to assess the factors that were deemed important in terms of schools being able to take advantage of computer-related technology.
Dr. Hosman (center) and her IIT class, 2014.
The survey-making process included:
Forming suitable questions that would be easy to comprehend in different regions of the world and would help reveal needs, capabilities, and interest in ICT.
Assessing existing open-source software options for creating and administering surveys on mobile devices. The class chose to use ODK (Open Data Kit) Collect as the main survey software, along with FormHub for creating the survey spreadsheet.
Administering the survey to multiple test groups, in Chicago and abroad, to help filter out any questions that seemed to be unnecessary or confusing.
The class’ local partner on the ground in Chuuk was the team at iSolutions, a computer networking and consulting business located on the main island of Weno, which is the capital of Chuuk. This team was lead by TR Mori, whom Dr. Hosman originally met while working in Chuuk, Micronesia. iSolutions also runs the only Internet cafe in Chuuk.
To help with this project, the iSolutions team administered the survey on the ground in Chuuk. The iSolutions team members needed to learn how to use “ODK Collect,” the mobile technology platform that was chosen to administer the survey, as well as to familiarize them with both the questions and the overall goals of our survey.
Ultimately, data was collected from six schools. Unfortunately, all of these schools were on the main island, and were not the intended targets. Outer-island schools would be good candidates to receive technology in the future–specifically, the SolarCubed ICT Labs. Each of the main-island schools that was surveyed already had access to both electricity and ICT. Nonetheless, the class could begin analyzing the data to determine whether the assessment tools that were created would be useful.
The data evaluation metric
Data was analyzed by breaking down the portions of our survey into four key attributes that determined overall readiness. The four key attributes included:
Potential Impact of the Technology
Experience with Technology
Attitude Towards Technology
From this point, questions from the survey were grouped based upon their relation to each attribute, and the answers were evaluated to determine readiness.
The students were surprised to have received data from schools that already had access to technology, but this underscored a point that Prof. Hosman emphasized throughout the semester: the human side of technology initiatives is always the most complicated and challenging. Nonetheless, we are confident that with time (and relevant data), our site survey does have the ability to promote accuracy and increase successful efforts to assess the readiness of schools around the world for ICT initiatives, due to its global clarity and effectiveness in assessing global technological needs.
If you would like more information on our project or SolarCubed hubs, please visit www.solarcubed.org to keep up with our progress. Additionally, online versions of the surveys have been uploaded to FormHub and may be found here:
SiteAssessment V1.5 Part 1
SiteAssessment V1.5 Part 2
Written by Anndriene Bell, one of Dr. Hosman’s students at IIT. You can reach Anndriene Bell by email.
- Posted by Inveneo on May 8, 2013 in the categories: News
Mevaly Tokyo, 10, and Lima Souneng, 16, at the UFO school on Fefan. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo
The tropical islands of Chuuk, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, remain largely disconnected from the Internet. More than an hour flight from Guam and over 3,400 miles (5,400 km) from Hawaii, most of the islands in Chuuk are isolated in a way that is hard to envision. While the main island of Weno (pronounced Wena) has a population of almost 14,000 and basic Internet access, most of the surrounding islands have only 350 to 4,000 people per island, limited cell phone service and are accessible only by boat. Students on the islands may have seen people use computers and the Internet on television but most of them have never actually touched one or been online.
“A few [students], maybe 1%, have ever used computers, but most have not seen them,” one teacher on the island of Eot said.
“We often work in areas with limited internet access, but the environment in Chuuk poses very unique challenges to improving connectivity,” said Andris Bjornson, Inveneo’s CTO. “I’ve rarely seen anything like it.”
In late March Bjornson travelled with Bruce Baikie and Prairie Summer to Chuuk to conduct a site survey and local partner training as part of phase two of the Pacific Islands Schools, Connectivity, Education, and Solar (PISCES) Project. PISCES is a multi-stakeholder initiative to demonstrate how low cost wireless networking and solar-powered computing infrastructure can be scaled to serve educational professionals and students across the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and similar remote island settings. PISCES I, the first phase of the project, was implemented in 2012 and demonstrated that alternative, low-cost wireless networking and solar-powered computing infrastructure offer reliable and affordable computing and connectivity options for many remote and off-grid schools.
The goal of this second phase (PISCES II) is to identify, connect and equip at least three schools on these remote islands, strengthen the local ICT capacity and increase digital literacy among teachers.
K-8 School on Tsis, which has 87 kids, 5 teachers and no computers or internet access. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo
For this project Inveneo’s team focused in on building the capacity of our local partner iSolutions and members of the local telecom to conduct site surveys, design wireless networks and install long-distance wireless links. Dr. Laura Hosman from Inveneo partner Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) was also present, following up on the 6 low-power, ruggedized computers that were deployed in PISCES I on the island of Udot and assessing lessons learned during the first phase. Dr. Hosman also gathered data to inform the design of trainings for teachers on computer skills and the deployment of additional computers in the new locations.
Chuuk Lagoon with pins showing survey locations. The pieced-together nature of Google’s area maps highlights the remote nature of the islands.
With the ambitious goal of conducting site survey training, six site surveys on six islands and installing one point-to-point link, the week was packed and the team was at the mercy of the weather. The heat, humidity, heavy rainfall (almost 200 inches per year) and unique challenges of making long-distance wireless links work over water make this equatorial island nation a difficult environment. Most of the smaller islands have no electricity and the vegetation is thick.
Operations began with Bjornson conducting a full day of training with three iSolutions staff and two members of FSM Telecom followed by guided site surveys. These guided surveys allowed trainees to test their new skills while gathering valuable data necessary to design the wireless links.
The training started with an in-depth session on the connection between tower equipment and a computer lab. Classroom time was balanced by hands-on training and exercises with the team conducting test surveys at various locations on Weno. In addition to learning many of the standard survey tools (including GPS and compass basics), the team also tested Inveneo’s new Smartphone-based Android application for conducting site surveys. The group of workshop participants from both iSolutions and Telcom FSM are the first worldwide to use this new tool, integrating survey-specific GPS, camera, and note-taking capabilities into one convenient handheld device. Previously an engineer needed to bring an individual compass, GPS unit, camera, paper and pencil to collect all of the data. These Google-donated Android phones use a combination of services including Formhub and odkcollect to make site surveys faster and more accurate.
Bjornson leads the classroom portion of our local partner training program. Photo: Laura Hosman
Bjornson training local engineers to perform site surveys. Photos: Laura Hosman
With the training complete the team headed out to the surrounding islands to begin the site surveys. Heavy rain poured during the first three days, but not enough to stop the team from boating out to surveying the first three islands. When the rains let up the sun emerged giving the Inveneo team the opportunity to experience the full spectrum of weather challenges. From torrential rains to blazing sun, each day added to the understanding of what networks need to endure to function in Chuuk. Site visits to Romanum, Udot and Eot islands were completed via boat in one day despite constant rainfall. The islands of Fefan, Tsis and Tonoas were surveyed on the following day.
Left: Bjornson, Balkie, Dr. Laura Hosman from IIT and the trainees from iSolutions and FSM Telecom boarding the boat on Udot. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo Right: Bjornson and TR from local partner iSolutions conducting a site survey on Romanum. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo
Left: Site sketch in Bjornson’s notebook of Romanum. Photo: Andris Bjornson / Inveneo Right: GR from iSolutions taking measurements at Romanum. Photo: Prairie Summer / Inveneo
Baikie surveys a potential computer lab site at Romanum School. Photo: Laura Hosman
Bjornson, Summer and Baikie discover a few of the different ways that getting around in Micronesia can be a wet affair. Photos: Laura Hosman
While each school and site has unique assets and challenges, all six of the locations surveyed are viable potential link locations. Many of the schools are conveniently located on the edge of the islands, clear of the dense vegetation that covers most of the islands, and even at the schools farther inland feasible locations were identified. This is exciting news for the PISCES team and the schools who will benefit from the link when it’s established.
“What we are doing now is we are trying to improve our students’ performance, and it would be good to search what other schools are doing…on the curriculum and find ways to improve our teaching,” Nancy Seymour, principal and 1st-2nd grade teacher on Eot said. Her school does not have enough books and resources and she believes having Internet access could make all the difference – providing her and the other teachers a source for new lesson plans and ideas and introducing the students to new and foreign things.
Nancy Seymour, principal and 1st-2nd grade teacher on Eot. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo
At every school the team visited there was a keen interest in connectivity and a universal belief that technology would make an impact on the quality of education. In addition to the academic potential, every single student and teacher indicated that they had family living either on other islands or abroad, and there was a great deal of excitement around the potential for communication with loved ones.
With the site surveys completed, the next focus was to establish a long distance wireless link from the main island of Weno to the school on Udot. This link, temporarily established during PISCES I, needed to be moved to a more permanent location and the team had received permission from FSM Telecom to place the link on the telecom’s existing tower.
This new position, higher on the island, allows for a stronger connection and will be the point that all six of the surveyed islands will link to when the project is completed. To install this long-distance link half of the team went to the tower on Weno and the other half to the site on Udot, coordinating via radios and cell phones. First the Udot team installed a small link on the side of the school. On Weno, the team put together a small dish, then mounted it on the tower and pointed it toward Udot. The positioning is critical and must be painstakingly adjusted to the most accurate position possible. Access to the tower was provided by FSM Telecom, which has a strong relationship with iSolutions. Inveneo has found through past experience that strong collaboration with the local telecommunications provider can be a powerful tool in creating sustainable projects.
Mangoki Shirai assembles dish for the long-distance link from Weno to Udot, then climbs the FSM Telecom tower on Weno to install the link. Photos: Prairie Summer/Inveneo
View of Udot from the base of the tower on Weno. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo
Left: Team putting together the dish on Udot for the link to Weno. Photo: Laura Hosman/IIT Right: Installing the link on top of the school on Udot. Photo: Laura Hosman/IIT
The team on Udot then adjusted the link on their end and the connection was established! Both the FSM Telecom and iSolutions teams did an incredible job.
With the training completed and the first link established, and data gathered for five additional sites to be linked as soon as the funding is secured, PISCES II has the potential to provide unprecedented levels of connectivity and access to schools and communities throughout Chuuk. The project has also gained support and interest from the FSM Department of Education.
In addition to improving the educational resources and access to information, every single student, teacher and administrator the team met on this trip said they have family on other islands or in other countries. With this long-distance wireless network in place they will all have new ways to communicate with their loved ones in other places, and that may be the best motivation to learn of all.
If additional support for this project can be secured, the Inveneo team plans to return and install links to the remaining five sites in the summer of 2013.
Left: View of the tower on Weno from the boat. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo Right: View of the boat on Tsis. Photo: Prairie Summer/Inveneo
The PISCES Project has received funding support from Google, the Pacific Telecommunications Council, and the Internet Society. PISCES Project partners include: Inveneo, the University of Guam, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) Organization, Green WiFi, iSolutions, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, the University of California, Berkeley’s TIER research group, FSM Department of Education, FSM DTC&I.
- Posted by Aaron Mason on April 3, 2013 in the categories: News
Danny from Inveneo partner iSolutions (left) and Mark from FSM Telecom take a FormHub survey using Android smartphones at the Rominum School in Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia. Photo: Andris Bjornson
Collecting information in the field has never been an easy task. A combination of GPS units, clipboards and cameras makes the typical site survey a bulky, labor-intensive affair. This past week, however, saw Inveneo’s first field test of a simple solution. With a donation of Android-based phones from Google.org Andris Bjornson, Inveneo’s CTO, implemented a new workflow while on project in Micronesia.
The workflow is based around several different technologies working together. GPS-enabled camera phones can collect all of the data necessary, the Android platform makes the system easy – and affordable – to deploy anywhere in the world and FormHub and odkCollect are used to initialize, collect and manage the data. The web-based service FormHub sets up the surveys by turning properly formatted Excel spreadsheets into a database back-end that records and plots all of the data collected. The Android app odkCollect captures and uploads the data, and can be used with or without connectivity, uploading data the next time the surveyor has internet access.
Bjornson was extremely pleased with the performance of the system in the field, both in it’s capacity and it’s flexibility. The system proved extremely robust, collecting data and deploying dynamic surveys that respond to the answers given.
“The collection and form design experience is awesome. The fact that something I’d call intermediate to advanced was this easy to use was huge,” said Bjornson.
The workflow proved highly adaptable, allowing for small but important changes like adding a “which island” field (something that only applies in Chuuk’s unusual archipelago environment) and changing “town” to “village” to be made extremely quickly. Details like these are important when deploying a project, as small communications difficulties can have larger ramifications. The team decided on a way to name different versions as the form evolved and moved forward without a hitch.
“The system proved to be a great example of one of our core values: the fusion of local knowledge and technical expertise,” said Bjornson. “It’s important to listen and trust people with local knowledge instead of just telling people how to do things. The flexibility of this workflow let us listen and adapt instantly.”
Working with any new system undoubtedly brings challenges. Bjornson’s first challenge was that Micronesia is wet, really wet, with nearly 200 inches of rainfall each year. Most smartphones are not waterproof, so deploying the devices into the field was a major concern. Fortunately the local engineers were familiar with this and wrapping a plastic bag around the device worked perfectly. When properly fitted, camera, GPS and touchscreen capabilities were unaffected by the thin plastic.
The second challenge came down to bandwidth. Bjornson has extensive experience in low-bandwidth scenarios around the world including working in Haiti, Kenya and Nepal, and the bandwidth in Chuuk was the slowest he’d seen, due to the fact that the entire state’s internet connection comes through one satellite dish. The devices do not need connectivity to collect survey data in the field, but they do need a connection to upload the data they’ve collected. Bjornson was able to connect with the developers in the FormHub Google Group and get immediate feedback and a few potential solutions. After resizing photos and changing a few field types, a workaround was found.
“This first test was a total success,” said Bjornson. “The donated Android phones performed admirably in a harsh environment and the FormHub workflow worked like a charm. We’re looking forward to deploying more of them in the near term for our partners building networks in Haiti and other locations.”
- Posted by Inveneo on September 11, 2012 in the categories: Economic Development, News, Projects
Two long-distance, solar-powered wireless point-to-point connections were set up in the Micronesian Region of the Pacific in early August 2012. The installations were part of the Pacific Island Schools Connectivity, Education, and Solar (PISCES) Project, a multi-partnered endeavor focused on training and local capacity building vis-à-vis solar-powered information and communications technology (ICT) within the Pacific region. This project falls under the umbrella of Inveneo’s innovative Broadband for Good initiative.