Solar power debuts in South Pacific with VIA Information Community Centre

The South Pacific has been largely ignored by global ICT deployment initiatives. Chip-maker VIA Technologies has just announced the first-ever solar-powered cyber community centre in the South Pacific. The project harnesses the power of the sun to provide people in rural and remote communities with reliable and clean computing and Internet access. First-ever solar-powered cyber community centre in the South Pacific

Chip-maker VIA Technologies is a company that harnesses the power of the sun to provide people in rural and remote communities with reliable and clean computing and Internet access. It has just announced the first-ever solar-powered cyber community centre in the South Pacific. The South Pacific has been largely ignored by global ICT deployment initiatives, and is only now taking the steps needed to build the infrastructure to raise the region's e-readiness.

Developed with the Samoan ICT Secretariat, the centre is a proof-of-concept implementation by VIA Solar Computing, a branch of VIA Technologies, and in turn a key element of the VIA Clean Computing Initiative to drive environment-conscious computing. The remote Samoan village of Ulutogia, Aleipata District was selected for its multiple local user communities and, like most of the South Pacific, its abundance of sunshine, making solar the logical source of power.

Accessible to all, the VIA pc-1 Information Community Centre in Samoa will help address issues of e-education, e-health and e-governance for local residents, and provide business opportunities for the recipient and surrounding communities, as well as offer Internet access to tourists. Following its successful launch, it is set to act as a working template for similar IT centres around the world to help bridge the Digital Divide, especially in rural and remote locations. VIA is additionally working with major international organisations and governments to facilitate further such deployments.

The VIA pc-1 Information Community Centre in Samoa has involved the installation of three VIA pc-1 power-saving PCs and a VIA pc-1 server, plus an external fax/scanner/copier/printer, all powered by a complete dual 175W photovoltaic solar panel solution from solar supplier Motech Industries.

Through this implementation, the centre is addressing the largest obstacles facing ICT access in the developing world: the design of appropriate technologies; reliable power supplies; Internet access; sustainability through proper training and business opportunities; and closing the gap that exists between the different sectors working towards solving the Digital Divide dilemma, specifically private, public, civil society, academic and international organisations.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Soliai Sailele Malielegaoi is clear in his views: "For our next ten infocentres I want VIA's solar-powered computers, monitors, etc. I want anything solar as we have so much sun here in Samoa."

Solar computing: energy for the future

VIA attached some notes on solar power to its press release on the South Pacific project. Therefore, a summary of VIA's approach to creating efficient computing devices and clean-energy technologies follows. No endorsement by Developing Telecoms is intended.

Providing clean, quiet, cost-effective energy has made photovoltaic solar power among the most appropriate energy sources for the future, practical for both developed urban locations and for remote environments in emerging markets lacking reliable electricity or with harsh climatic conditions. Solar power is a naturally complementary technology to existing power-efficient silicon and platform technologies, and enables cost-effective solar computing set-ups that can be installed virtually anywhere in the world.

Solar power can also be cost-effective in many developing nations, where traditional mains electricity is tremendously more expensive than in developed nations; for example, normal electricity supplies in Samoa are six times the price of those in New Zealand. Moreover, in remote locations with limited or non-existent and/or expensive electricity many turn to generators with their lower purchase cost for power. However, photovoltaic solar power has many advantages over generators:

  • solar power is a clean, non-polluting energy;
  • solar panels are silent in operation: ideal for classroom, kiosk, shops, or evening operations where a noisy generator would be disturbing;
  • solar power is virtually free energy once the capital cost has been covered;
  • solar panels do not require refuelling - they are self-sufficient; solar panels are highly reliable and virtually maintenance-free, some requiring only annual changes of water in the deep-cycle batteries, and they usually come with an average warranty of 20 years due to the absence of moving parts.

Developing and promoting the necessary technologies will result in beneficial computing and communications technologies brought to the world, technologies that can operate on clean, quiet, cost-effective sources of power and that are accessible to all.

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