Subject: ZDNet: Aussie IT companies to connect East Timor

This story was printed from ZDNet Australia.

Aussie IT companies to connect East Timor

March 12, 2002

After seeing the destruction wrought by Indonesian-backed militia in East Timor, Queensland businessman Peter De Haas returned to Australia with an idea.

"In most of the towns, you can't post a letter, let alone make a phone call," De Haas explained. "They are using runners to go from town to town, but in a medical emergency there is little hope of contacting a doctor in time."

After nearly 30 years working in the Information Technology and Communications (ITC) sector, De Haas had a better idea than most about what it would take to get basic communications infrastructure in place in East Timor, and believed he could play a role in building this life-saving technology.

De Haas returned to Australia to found the Connect East Timor Campaign, which is currently looking to raise AU$4 million in order to provide East Timorese villages with a private mobile radio service.

"We discovered 489 towns in East Timor are where there are just no communications, there is no way to get a message out," De Haas said. "The private mobile radio service doesn't cost too much to operate, it is just to get an emergency system up and running."

Initially the campaign office is looking to raise the funds to employ a project director and radio engineer to oversee the project, which is expected to take two years to complete.

Backing the project is the Catholic lay missionary association PALMS, which focuses on passing on development skills to the communities where they work, the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (ATUG), De Haas' own company Gibson Quai, and communication's group Lape and Partners.

According to De Haas, cash donations and donations in kind are welcome, as are skilled people who wish to donate their time to the project. At this stage, he said, donations of everything from from solar powered batteries to a company that could provide the antenna and masts required for the infrastructure are welcome. "What we don't need is second hand gear that can't be supported in the country at the moment," he added.

Based on a "train the trainer" approach, De Haas believes there will be approximately 10 to 15 people needed to get the project off the ground in East Timor.

While De Haas concedes that raising funds in the current IT market will be a challenge, he is looking forward to support from the corporate sector.

"We are looking for people to set the high watermark at this early stage," he said.

To find out more contact Connect East Timor campaign director Stephen Johnson on Stephen.Johnson@diie.srq.qld.gov.au


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