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FIJI: Media group launches first portal

FIJI: Media group launches first portal

9 February 2001

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SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): The media group credited with scoring a
major scoop in its news coverage of Fiji's coup last May has launched
the country's first internet portal and search engine website.

Information Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola launched last
night, describing it as a "mini-Yahoo" and calling on Fiji's
telecommunications monopolies to do more so that the country's people
could "reap the benefits of the information technology revolution".

Hellofiji, developed by Webmasters Ltd, features what the company called
Fiji's first major search engine and directory of websites., the media group's ground-breaking news website, described as "the window on Fiji's past, present and future".

"Much needs to be done within Fiji to improve access to IT, especially
to rural areas, otherwise we will be facing the consequences of this in
years to come in the form of a digital divide between the rural and
urban areas, and between the poor and the rich," Kubuabola said.

"This must not be the case. If people in the isolated rural areas of
Fiji - and they are mostly indigenous Fijians - are to play a meaningful
part in the economy, they must have access to IT."

Kubuabola appealed for internet access "at school, at work, in the
community, in village halls - everywhere."

He described the country's monopoly telecom operators, such as Telecom
Fiji and Fintel, as lacking competition and this had caused "a sense of
complacency and lethargy".

A new Information Technology Advisory Council has been established with
Fijilive managing director and The Review news magazine publisher
Yashwant Gaunder as its chair to map out a national strategy.

Webmasters acting manager Verleshwar Singh said that for the first time
in Fiji the Hellofiji site allowed users to personalise their home page
in a similar way to other international portals.

Users also had access to news, weather information, free e-mail, TV
guide, events calendar and a community forum. Other features included
shopping, e-cards, games, jokes, movie info, restaurant listings, chat,
and dating.

"Expect more features over the next few months as we aim to make it the
South Pacific's premier portal," said Singh.

"We expect HelloFiji to become Fiji's first one million monthly hits
site by July."

The company also launched 25 other websites, including the revamped - which has a news link with the Daily Post newspaper. was launched just before the 1999 general election and it
quickly established itself as the leading news site in Fiji.

In the wake of last year's May 19 coup, the website gained international
popularity, registering a high of 175,000 hits in a 24-hour period.

While pre-coup hits were around 150,000 a month, hits are now reported
to be around 700,000 monthly.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government
organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media
workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability,
censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region.
Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at
the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian
Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney
and Port Moresby.

(c)1996-2000 Copyright - All rights reserved.

© Scoop Media

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