Under European Union funding (EDF8), the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) has initiated a project for the benefit of 8 Pacific ACP countries (Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu). Entitled “Reducing Vulnerability of Pacific ACP States”, the project aims to improve decision making in three sectors that are of particular relevance to Pacific Islands: aggregates for construction, hazard mitigation and risk assessment, and water resources, supply and sanitation. To help meet the project objectives of improved planning and better decision making based on factual and accurate information shared amongst all categories of the population, geographical information will be available as maps and reports to all stakeholders though the Internet. To give access to maps, a map server based on OpenSource software is currently being established as a demonstration unit in SOPAC. The use of OpenSource software reduces software costs as well as allowing the application to be tailor-made to individual country needs. It provides a system that is open to all Pacific Islander specialists to study and modify via the Internet. The OpenSource software suite is composed of GNU/Linux Mandrake for the server platform with the Mapserver from the University of Minnesota bundled inside Tikiwiki for better multi-stakeholder collaboration.
Completion of this pilot phase in Fiji will be followed over the next two years by similar equipment installation and training in the other Pacific ACP countries, to allow dissemination of their geographical information to all. Providing interactive maps of Pacific Islands on the Internet for Pacific Islands is a first in the Region. The provision of web-based map servers in each country will enable the distribution of information and analysis to a much larger section of the population, and ultimately in rural areas. The SOPAC/EU Project anticipates the service will be useful to a broad spectrum of the community and that some of these materials will be used in classrooms throughout the Pacific, so that school children can better understand interactions between environment, social and economic aspects of development.