28 December 2011: Every year GO plays an intrinsic role in the management of communications for l-Istrina. Last year, €696,672 were collected from fixed line donations (GO and other service providers) and €115,460.82 from SMS (GO network only). In addition GO waived €22,280 in labour costs and for the installation of fibre. This year, GO also donated €15,000 in cash, €2,565 representing the amount matched by GO after hundreds of its employees took part in the President’s Fun Run, and €400 raised by selling memorabilia donated to GO by Gary Neville after GO sponsored his testimonial dinner in June.
The record-breaking amount raised through the 2011 edition of l-Istrina would never have been possible without months of intense preparations coordinated by the President’s office, but, at the end of the day, the actual collection of the money is largely down to the state-of-the-art infrastructure put in place by GO.
Once marquees are set up, performers booked, games designed and presenters made-up, the real task is getting people to phone or text in their donations. But providing dozens of telephone sets for celebrities and volunteers to take the calls is just the visible part of the iceberg.
Verdala Palace did not originally have sufficient network to deal with the various demands of this huge televised campaign, so the first challenge for GO was to extend fibre and copper from Rabat to the Palace, and then set up equipment within the palace to support the wide range of telecommunications services, including hot lines, pledge lines, general lines with ‘hunting’ facility, SMS donation lines, mobile connections, data connections for high-speed ADSL - and an entire internet exchange in the extremely isolated area.
The GO teams are by now used to connecting up remote locations: for the past few years, l-Istrina was held at Lufthansa Technik – also quite a way from major local exchanges.
In the case of the Palace, there were added headaches: work could not start outside until the marquees were actually erected (and things were being changed every day till the last moment). What’s more, the technical and aesthetic issues were compounded by the importance of ensuring that all the cables snaking around the extensive area were covered for safety reasons, as thousands of people would be traipsing around the site.
All this meant that the GO teams from engineering, IT and coordination had to work very fast and be extremely flexible, holding frequent meetings with the organizers to identify the best solutions – sometimes at very short notice – in fact, tweaks to the telephone donations lines were made until the eleventh hour.
Once the cable was laid, it took 10 people over two weeks to set up the entire network. There were 70 telephones for donations from the public, and another 60 lines used for support and coordination of the activity. The outside broadcast unit required a TV connection, while auditors KPMG, who received all the cash donations, required a set-up specifically dedicated to credit card donations. The two banks – BOV and HSBC – required ADSL for their electronic points of sale (EPOS), and a hybrid system had to be created so that voice calls could be put on air if required.
It was an intense few weeks but now that it is over, the GO staff can finally pat themselves on a job well done, knowing that thanks to their input, dozens of organizations will benefit from over €2.56 million next year.
Presentation of cheque by GO during l-Istrina. From left - the GO team comprising: Ing. Martin Zammit, Senior Manager - Radio Operations, Adrian Xuereb, Senior Manager - IT Strategic Services and Vanessa Macdonald, Manager of Public & Media Relations/Corporate Communications presenting the cheque to H.E. George Abela, President of Malta and Mrs Abela (far right)