Sam Saili



Deakin Bachelor of Commerce


Melbourne Burwood

Graduation year


Current position

CEO of SkyEye Pacific


Deakin alum Fa’aso’otauloa Sam Saili is filling the gaps left in the Pacific Islands by tech giants including Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber.

Bridging technology gaps in the Pacific Islands

Named as a 2023 Gamechanger by the Global Australian Awards for his work as co-founder and CEO of SkyEye Pacific, Sam is bringing innovative technology to the people of Samoa in a way that genuinely supports their infrastructure setup and way of life.

The company he operates alongside his siblings was born out of frustrations they found in their work in IT, both in the private sector and government departments in Samoa.

‘The technology solutions we were trying at work were created for well-developed countries with good ICT infrastructure, but they weren’t working as advertised for us,’ Sam explains.

After their employers rejected their ideas for new, localised technology solutions, Sam and his brother Nomeneta thought, ‘OK, we’re going to try it out ourselves,’ Sam recalls. They launched SkyEye Pacific in 2013.

The company is a family affair, with Sam’s wife and niece working alongside him and his brother and most of his siblings on the board—there are 13 siblings.

‘There are sometimes issues working with family, but the trust we have for each other is more than anything,’ Sam says. ‘We’re very family-focused because of the way we’ve been brought up in Samoan culture – you have to serve before you can be in a position to lead.’

Beginnings in Burwood and beyond

When Sam’s father passed away while he was still in school, his elder sisters were left responsible for sending money home from their overseas scholarships to ensure their siblings were educated and fed.

Then, like his siblings before him, Sam studied overseas, travelling to Deakin’s Burwood campus on an AusAid scholarship to study a Bachelor of Commerce, graduating in 2000. Sam describes his time at Deakin as ‘a big factor’ in his development, both academically and personally.

‘It was very strange being sent overseas and having to fend for yourself,’ he reflects. ‘There were a lot of international students, so having exposure to different cultures and languages, ideas, and knowing how different people work was very good for me.’

Back home in Samoa as a fresh graduate, he faced a pivotal moment when he arrived for his first day on the job in the Samoan Ministry of Finance economic division.

‘But when I went in, the IT manager got a hold of me and he told me Samoa needed IT people and expertise a lot more than economists – so that’s where my career changed,’ Sam recalls.

On the spot, Sam switched his career path to IT – a move that eventually led him to where he is today.

Building the Pacific Islands' answer to Google Maps

When Sam and Nomeneta started SkyEye Pacific, the first of the Samoan infrastructure gaps Nomeneta researched and developed led to them building their own localised version of Google Maps.

'A lot of software and solutions were based on Google Maps, but it doesn't work well in the Pacific because we don't have street addresses,' Sam explains.

Their localised version is populated by the names of shops, schools and other landmarks that might not usually be in Google Maps but relate to how locals know their area.

'It was quickly adopted by businesses that rely on having accurate addresses,' Sam says.

This led to the launch of SkyEye Pacific's vehicle tracking system, which provides much more useful and valuable information to clients than was previously available.

There were a lot of international students, so having exposure to different cultures and languages, ideas, and knowing how different people work was very good for me.

Fa’aso’otauloa Sam Saili

Deakin Bachelor of Commerce

Combatting satellite blind spots with local drones

SkyEye Pacific is also combatting the need for more accurate satellite map imagery for the Pacific Islands, a cluster of small land masses surrounded by a huge body of water.

'When satellites fly over the Pacific, they usually switch off their sensors to save on battery, memory, and storage,' Sam explains. 'They probably update once every six months, but if there are clouds when they go over, an island will miss a whole year of data capture.'

So, the SkyEye Pacific team taught themselves to fly drones and created accurate, up-to-date maps of their region.

The Samoan government has hired them to capture information about water catchment areas to mitigate flooding.

Another partnership is with Women in Business Development Inc. (WBDI), The Body Shop's sole supplier of coconut oil. SkyEye Pacific's drones make estimating coconut crop yield every month far quicker and more accurate. The team is also currently experimenting with artificial intelligence technology to classify coconut quality and identify when coconuts require treatment for rhinoceros beetle damage.

Welcoming street vendors into the digital economy

The team's next innovation was born around the dinner table at Sam's mum's house—the Maua app. Launched three years ago, it allows street vendors to list their stalls online using SkyEye Pacific's existing mapping technology.

'We realised people sell a lot of our Samoan food and delicacies on the side of the road in areas further out of town. My sister Agnes thought it would be really good to know where we could get these delicacies from and not have to drive around and look,' Sam explains.

'We did about six months of meeting with as many street vendors and NGOs as possible. We found it very difficult for vendors to get to the market because there's unreliable public transport. Then for women, they're trying to keep with the tradition of raising their children but also trying to generate their own income. A lot of the time they have to take their children with them to the market. With outbreaks of diseases like measles and COVID, this is risky.'

Based on these insights, the team built the Maua app to include e-commerce and delivery elements that rival Facebook Marketplace and Uber.

Vendors can easily list their products online, upload photos, descriptions and costs in the Samoan language. The platform is plugged into an in-house payment platform that integrates mobile payments, credit cards, and a new SkyEye Pacific delivery network, so makers can work from home and customers can easily purchase the specialty products they love.

Improving family support in a local, tangible way

Forever innovating, Sam and the team at SkyEye Pacific saw an opportunity with the Maua app to tackle a risky reality in Samoa—with a small population of only 200,000 people, the country's biggest GDP earner is remittances. Remittances, which involve relatives living overseas sending money to their family back home, make up 32% of the country's GDP.

'If anything happens to these remittances, it will devastate our economy. One of the risks we see is that because our diaspora population is getting further away from being born here, they have the right to question sending a blank cheque back home,' Sam explains.

With the Maua app now available anywhere in the world, relatives can choose how they want to help by purchasing particular products or services to send to their family and receive the transparency and reassurance that it's helping their family directly.
'Our platform has pharmacies, supermarkets, hardware stores, florists, bakeries, prepaid electricity… so the people from overseas can choose how they help. Then the platform will automatically notify them when their order is accepted, ready, picked up by the driver and delivered.'

A big plus for Samoan culture is including the street vendors in this system, involving them in the digital economy and supporting their continued production.

Continuing to make a difference, the Samoan way

While Sam and the team previously considered bringing in outside investment, they realised that 'to receive those kinds of investments would mean we'd have to change our DNA,' Sam says.

They're proud of SkyEye Pacific's pivotal role in the digitisation of Samoa and are committed to continuing.

'A lot of our products and services are helping with the government's goal of digital transformation and we're quite happy we can contribute locally with software we develop and we own, so any benefits that come out of it will stay in Samoa,' Sam says proudly.

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