Improved connectivity drives opportunity
Improved telecommunication infrastructure and services are widely recognized as drivers of opportunity. Connectivity is a key to improved efficiency and competitiveness in global markets, jobs, services, and economic growth. After a global slowdown at the beginning of the decade, enthusiasm for enhancing telecoms infrastructure has returned. Now is an excellent time for countries to reassess their positions with respect to telecoms, and benefits in terms of jobs and services for their peoples.
Pacific telecoms have been lagging
Telecommunications among Pacific island countries and between them and the rest of the world are expensive due to low infrastructure capacity, scattered islands, small economies, and restrictive regulatory arrangements with existing providers of telecommunication services. Meanwhile, other island economies, such as Mauritius and much of the Caribbean have been making considerable progress with improved services and reduced prices.
At the Pacific Leaders United Nations ESCAP Special Session in 2006, Pacific Leaders called for increased support from Asian countries for the development of Pacific small island developing States. As a response to this call ESCAP helped facilitate collaboration between Asian and Pacific partners to find innovative solutions to improve connectivity in the Pacific, including through satellite technology.
Pacific Leaders called on UNESCAP to assist in improving Pacific Connectivity
In seeking innovative solutions to improving Pacific Connectivity, ESCAP has collaborated with many others, in particular with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, UNDP and UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), and the ITU Asia and Pacific Regional Office.
Study on enhancing Pacific Connectivity
|Photo: Pacific Network
Together with its partners ESCAP conducted a study on “Enhancing Pacific Connectivity”. The study provides a solid basis for further dialogue among interested parties on Pacific Connectivity and creates opportunities to draw on Asian members’ experience in technology, funding and application. The Study looks at the situation in 20 Pacific states and territories. It concludes that improvements in this arena can well serve Pacific island states and that they are technically, economically, and institutionally timely. Raw connectivity, linked services, business and employment opportunities are areas where timely action could deliver substantial benefits to the Pacific.
The study considers the technical viability, of various options to improving connectivity, including creative approaches to cable, terrestrial wireless (e.g. WiMax and mobile phones), as well as satellite technology (including solar-powered satellite phones for “universal service”). It also assesses economic and commercial viability, and presents financing options for enhancing Pacific Connectivity.
Consultations on Pacific Connectivity
|Solar-powered satellite mobile phone service can reach here, now
Pacific island countries have expressed their interest in the project on several occasions, including at the 62nd and 63rd Commission sessions. Some countries have also recently taken steps to deregulate and otherwise enhance their telecommunications sector which will facilitate pursuit of benefits for improved connectivity.
Meetings and Conferences
- High-level Consultation on Pacific Connectivity, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 18 May 2007;
- Asia-Pacific Business Forum, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 18 to 19 May 2007
- PITA 11th AGM, 23-28 April 2007, Tahiti
- Technical Consultation on Enhancing Pacific Connectivity, Bangkok, 13 and 14 November 2006
- Pacific Leaders United Nations ESCAP Special Sessions, 62nd Session of ESCAP, Jakarta, 10 April 2006;
The High-level Consultation on Pacific Connectivity, Almaty, Kazakhstan, 18 May 2007 identified the following issues for further work:
- Establishment of appropriate government policies and regulatory frameworks to enable and secure involvement of the private sector.
- Explore possible interest in a regional telecoms body to support Pacific countries. The meeting expected that key possible investors in the telecommunications sector in the Pacific could include private investment from China, India, Japan and Thailand as well as from Australia and New Zealand.
- A regional agreement among Pacific island countries to enable a dedicated satellite system that is regional in coverage such as a possible Pacific-managed communication satellite.
- Harmonizing the enormous range of applications, that exits among various players in the Pacific and building sustainable networks and services.
- Full utilization of existing infrastructure and services networks, invested in by both government and private sector.
- Appropriate technical options suitable to extend the connectivity to all parts of the Pacific, especially to the remote areas. In this regard, electric power supply should also be addressed by the study.
- Strategies in dealing with current monopoly arrangements, which exist between the governments and current service operators.
ESCAP stands ready to provide further assistance
ESCAP seeks to support the initiative by facilitating further dialogue, by providing assistance to Pacific island governments and helping in the identification of partners in Asia and the private sector.
At the Pacific Leaders United Nations ESCAP Special Session in 2006, Pacific Leaders called for increased support from Asian countries to development efforts of the Pacific subregion. As a response to this call ESCAP has helped facilitate collaboration between Asian and Pacific partners to find innovative solutions to improve connectivity in the Pacific, including through satellite technology.
Key partners for ESCAP in this project are the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, Pacific Island Telecommunications Association (PITA), UN-OHRLLS.
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