Thursday, December 14, 2017

‘Internet will help Pacific economies’

Call to connect remote islands with submarine cable

 The private sector forum of the UN conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) closed on Sunday, with Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien calling for an undersea cable from Papua New Guinea through the Paci­fic and back into Sydney, Australia, to increase connectivity by providing access to broadband services for all—as well as asking for a new economic plan for heavily indebted Caribbean states.

O’Brien, chairman of Digicel Group, used the forum to impress the

im­portance of connectivity for UN SIDS to unlock economic growth. 

“There won’t be a real change in economic growth in most of the Pacific Islands until a submarine cable is built to these remote countries. 

“Broadband is the umbilical cord for economic development. The private sector must partner with the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, IFC, the European Union and Pacific governments to come together to build a submarine cable, in order to close the digital divide that exists where Pacific Island nations do not have access to broadband. 

“This cable would lead to the ‘death of distance’ and bring this last geographic frontier into the global information age,” he said. 

Digicel is proposing a new submarine cable that would connect Papua New Guinea, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Cook Islands, back into Sydney. 

This new submarine cable would deliver unlimited connectivity to consumer and business customers and have a major impact in developing the econo­mies of these island states. 

O’Brien’s vision to increase connectivity was supported in principle by World Bank vice- president and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte,

who indicated the World Bank would consider following if Digi­-

cel were to lead on the project. 

“I want to see that eve­ry child has access to the Internet; des­pite their location, they should be able to access a virtual classroom. A new submarine cable will deliver much greater bandwidth while significantly reducing the cost of accessibility for people, making it so much easier for them to become part of the information age. Furthermore, it will become vital to the national economies of these islands,” continued O’Brien. 

In attendance at the closing of the forum, Uni­-

ted Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, commented that “extra­ordinary partnerships” were essential for small island developing states.