Deploying WiFi Services in Malta's public gardens

Published on: 25/11/2007
Malta's National ICT Strategy for 2004 - 2006 states the importance to "work with public and private players to set-up more Internet centres, web-phones and public Wi-Fi hotspots to allow the public to access broadband Internet as easily as possible". The Strategy for 2008 - 2010 builds on the successes of the current strategy, wherein e-Inclusion is one of the main strategic streams. In 2004 Malta started to provide free WIFI services primarily in Local Councils and Public Libraries and now also in Public Gardens. The first two public gardens that are Wi-Fi enabled and offer free Internet access are centrally located in the cities of B’Kara and Sliema.

Policy Context

Originally the project started with the setting up of Local Council internet centres, which have been up and running for some time now and offer a wide variety of services and help people who are not accustomed to the WWW. These internet centres are slowly but steadily evolving into proper community learning centres of excellence. At the time of the deployment of the internet centres, desktop PC’s were still generally high and broadband internet subscription unaffordable to most. For this reason the decision was taken to assist these citizens by setting up the internet centres to shorten the digital divide. As time passed the capital cost of the technology started to decrease, due to several factors including agreements reached with local Banks to offer advantageous packages to students who need to purchase IT equipment. Nowadays when students decide to purchase a Personal Computer the trend is slowly shifting to Laptops, since the capital cost between Desktop pc and laptops is slowly becoming negligible, plus the added benefits that laptops offer. The only problem which remains is the Broadband running costs which are still relatively high compared to mainland Europe, due to the fact that we are an island nation.

Description of target users and groups

The main target are students, even though all members of society will benefit, including pensioners which embraced the ICT challenge and want to read an online newspaper in the tranquillity of a public garden to mothers with young children who are trying to find a work / family balance.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Managed jointly between Ministry for Investment, Industry & Information Technology, Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, Local Government Department and Local Councils.

Technology solution

The technology used is a 4M/512k Cable Modem (incl. 1 fixed IP) plus a Cisco 1300 Access Point & antenna, which provides a 200m, signal capable of covering the entire garden. It is estimated that maximum 30 users can use the system simultaneously, at reasonable speeds.

Main results, benefits and impacts

The results which we hope to attain is the further reduction of the digital divide and a better standard of living to the residents. Once usage data is collected through the Local ISP’s, and usage patterns analysed, a decision will be taken whether or not to replicate in other localities.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

Dissemination is done mostly by the Local Councils at a local level.

Lessons learnt

Previously Local Councils had their own individual ISP's which provided broadband service, this setup over time proved difficult to manage, especially when we decided to introduce WIFI as part of the package, since there were too many players to coordinate with to upgrade the service to include WIFI. Since this setup proved problematic, we grouped all local councils under 1 contract by issuing a tender for service, which benefits resulted in: lower monthly costs per site, faster deployment of new projects such as the WIFI Gardens, a single contact point in case of problems, more flexibility to implement new sites and the installation of WIFI in 90% of Local councils, at lower costs. Scope: National