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Putting a Pacific Island nation on the digital map

Putting a Pacific Island nation on the digital map

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The Government of Niue is utilizing Lenovo ThinkAgile VX technology to transform citizens’ access to government services and participate in today’s digital world, helping make the country’s education and healthcare systems more efficient.

Niue is an island in the South Pacific, located 604 kilometers northeast of Tonga. It is a self-governing state, with its own parliament, the Niue Legislative Assembly, and a government comprising 22 departments.

In 2020, the Manatua One Polynesia Fiber Cable provided Niue with high-speed Internet access for the first time replacing a 4 megabit satellite link with gigabit fiber connectivity. This presented a huge opportunity to reimagine government services and drive Digital Transformation at every level of Niue society.

To take full advantage of the Manatua cable, Niue needed to take the next step in its IT transformation journey. Over the previous decade, the government had worked with Aiscorp , its trusted technology partner, to centralize its IT infrastructure, consolidating all 22 departments on to a single platform but this hardware had now reached end of life.

Together with Aiscorp , the government set out a strategy to upgrade to a new infrastructure that would be robust enough to operate reliably in a challenging climate: 40 40°C heat, 40% humidity, salty air, frequent power outages during storms and no air conditioning.

The project would also need to overcome significant logistical challenges: the nearest large country to Niue is New Zealand, which is over 2,400 kilometers away, and flights were limited due to the COVID pandemic.

Brett Collier, CEO, Telecom Niue said: “Things that are taken for granted in other countries can be major challenges here. We’re fortunate that our government had the foresight to see the opportunity and was prepared to take an innovative approach.”

Why Lenovo? Reliable technology for a harsh environment

The Niue government worked with Aiscorp to evaluate solutions from several vendors before selecting Lenovo.

Decision makers saw Lenovo as an industry leader and recognized that the Lenovo ThinkAgile VX hyperconverged infrastructure was a good fit for its Microsoft applications providing both compute and storage resources in a single cluster that is easy to manage and scale thanks to VMware vSAN virtualization technology.

The key differentiator was the robustness and maintainability of the Lenovo ThinkAgile VX solution, which could run reliably in Niue’s climate, and be installed and managed without a large technical team.

One island, one platform

Due to the limited capacity of flights to Niue during the pandemic, the new infrastructure was transported from New Zealand to the island by boat. The Aiscorp team in New Zealand ensured that all the equipment was shipped with detailed documentation and instructions to enable a team on the island to install it themselves, without any on-site support from technical experts.

Today, the Lenovo ThinkAgile VX platform serves as the main IT infrastructure for all 22 government departments, plus Niue’s primary and secondary schools, and its bank. All major applications run in VMware virtual machines on the cluster, and users access them via Lenovo thin client terminals and laptops.

Meanwhile, Aiscorp has helped to repurpose much of the previous generation hardware as a Disaster Recovery platform and donated the rest to the island’s schools for students to use free of charge. Aiscorp has also helped to train local people to build up IT skills on the island and equip them to participate in an increasingly digital global society.

“The Lenovo ThinkAgile VX platform was easy to install and is easy to maintain with a local team – an important consideration when the nearest technical experts are thousands of miles away,” said Collier.

“Our Lenovo ThinkAgile VX cluster is always on and has never failed. That level of reliability is vital for government services. Lenovo is the benchmark standard in Niue because the hardware is so incredibly reliable. Aiscorp have also been working with us for 10 years, and they’ve proven that they care about Niue and its people. They know everyone by name and they’re part of our community.”

It has now been just over a year since the Manatua cable became operational, and the combination of gigabit Internet connectivity and the digital services provided by the new Lenovo solution has already touched or transformed almost every aspect of life in Niue.

Today, the island’s government is much more connected to the wider global community-sharing information with neighboring nations to improve border control, customs and security. For example, if a person of interest enters the country, law enforcement has instant access to the information they need from international police databases.

The solution also supports Niue’s economy, helping local businesses trade online and sell traditional Niue arts and crafts to customers around the world. Similarly, the tourism industry can now offer visitors not only the beauty of the island and its untouched natural resources, but also the modern conveniences of high-speed Internet access in their hotel rooms.

Education has been a major beneficiary too. High school exams used to be paper-based-now students on the island can study the same courses as their peers in New Zealand and take the same exams online. And instead of researching their assignments using encyclopedias in the library, they have the entire Internet at their disposal – a resource that students in most countries take for granted.

Most important of all, Niue’s citizens now have access to instant communication with the rest of the world. With over 40,000 Niuens living overseas in New Zealand and other countries, the ability to stay connected with friends and family via inexpensive VoIP calls and instant messaging has a huge positive impact on people’s daily lives.

This also makes the country’s healthcare system much more efficient.

Instead of waiting for a specialist to visit the island for a consultation, patients can consult their doctors remotely via video calls.

“People think it’s impossible to implement state-of-the-art technology in the South Pacific, but we’ve done amazing things with Lenovo and Aiscorp. We want to showcase what we’ve done and be an example for other Pacific Island nations. This was made possible by Aiscorp and the Government of Niue’s innovative solutions,” said Collier.

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