International Connectivity in the Pacific
By George Samisoni
July 24, 2018
Fiji and Regional Subsea Cable System Initiatives
Digital connectivity through ICT integrates the Pacific Island countries with the rest of the world.
One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations is the building of reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure to increase access to ICT and the provision of universal and affordable access to the Internet. ICTs and the Internet are key building blocks of the digital economy and have been recognised as important drivers to achieve the SDG (SDG-UN 2015).
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) identified that the international connectivity of small island developing states (SIDS) remains key to their economic development and creation of their own information society.
The need for universal broadband connectivity for the Pacific was re-emphasized during WTDC-17. Access to international fibre-optic networks at reasonable costs, including submarine cable capacity is central to the realisation of universal broadband access policy goals in many Pacific island countries.
World Bank research estimates improved internet access and connectivity could grow GDP by more than US$5 billion and create 300,000 new jobs in the Pacific. Telecommunications costs will reduce for islands solely reliant on satellite technology (e.g. Solomon Island).
The various Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry have welcomed the sub-sea cable systems in their respective islands, stressing the significance of cable investments and the positive impacts it will have on the economy, growth, investment and private sector.
Among many benefits, the sub-sea cable investments will boost island countries’ internet speed connection, lead to cheaper internet rates, make it easier for more investment opportunities and potentially create more jobs.
For businesses, it will improve productivity and reduce wastage in time and costs.
Early History – Fiji and the Pacific
The international submarine cable telecommunications industry has a long history in the South Pacific. The first sub-sea cable, capable of transmitting messages only, came to Fiji on 1902. The cable linked Canada, Fanning Island, Norfolk Island, Australia and New Zealand and also provided Fiji with connections to Canada and the UK, via the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable.