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Toward Financial Inclusion In Pacific Islands

TechInPacific – Solomon Islands is embracing the installation of an international fiber-optic connection called Coral Sea Cable, which increases the internet bandwidth capacity from 16 Gbps to 20 Tbps. According to the World Bank, a GDP boost of $5bn and 300,000 job opportunities can be achieved with the cable linking between Sydney, Honiara, and Port Moresby.

As the sea cable brings financial inclusion to improvement, the development and growth of digital services and new marketplaces are expected to grow swiftly with the vast potential it brings. However, it’s important to nurture that potential into practical realities.

Here are three points that touch the influencing factors on financial inclusion drive through a sea cable.

Improvement in domestic digital infrastructure 

When it comes to digital infrastructure, the topography of the islands creates small customer bases, which invite challenge in the even distribution of high-speed internet.

With a small revenue base, mobile network operators can operate balanced progress between infrastructure investments with the revenue cost.

These investments might be more concentrated in the more profitable urban areas that let prices high afloat and putting remote and low-income customers second in the picture, but the presence of fiber optic cables can push down the cost again.

Now counting in the government effort and the subsequent development partner support will allow an effective advantage and distribution of the sea cables installment.

Locally crafted digital product growth 

Personalized digital products for the small island communities are being developed, but hindrances come from the infrastructure shortage. No matter how much investment is made by startups, without a focused effort in building the infrastructure, development may be handicapped.

Such a case is illustrated in the jagged needs of the remote and more urban population, where the urban communities crave the latest internet connectivity like 4G, yet the remote communities prefer a 2G connection via USSD-based platforms.

It should be in project innovators, tech startups, and development partners’ minds to build a segregated development to cater to the different needs of the two communities while taking infrastructure into account.

Focus on digital and financial literacy 

If the goals are the fair distribution of the improved connectivity, that calls beyond implementation in early adopters as they are mostly the youth demographic having received exposure to the fast 4G connection.

Efforts can start from ICT training and STEM education that develop the people’s skills related to digital technology. At Digital Pacific Conference, Pacific leaders noted that the underlying factor of sustainable development in the islands would be the improvements made in education initiatives and worker’s skills upgrade to kickstart digital technology usage.

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash

What’s left now? 

Understanding the unique challenges in Pacific islands should be in the stakeholders’ consideration before moving on with their prospect in improved connectivity, and leading to an inclusive digital economy.

Now that fiber optic has been installed, it’s time for the joint effort between government and development partners to aim for the last mile digital infrastructure, spurting growth of tech startups and local innovators, as well as educating the communities on digital and financial literacy.


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