Pacific islands get digital boost with new links

RICS will complement current commercial providers by providing internet connectivity to rural and remote areas of all the Pacific islands

Two parallel initiatives are set to improve digital connectivity between the Pacific Islands before the end of next year.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) have secured funding for a pan-Pacific, satellite-based Rural Internet Connectivity System (RICS). Jimmie Rogers, the director general of the SPC, announced the new initiative at last month’s PacINET 2007 conference, held in Honiara.

RICS will complement current commercial providers by providing internet connectivity to rural and remote areas of all the Pacific islands. The initiative will be formally launched at the Pacific forum leaders meeting next month. Implementation of 16 pilot sites should then be completed within the next six months.

Rogers said the SPC and the PIFS have also been facilitating a submarine cable initiative since March. This will provide broadband links between 12 South Pacific island countries and territories. The cable network will link French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Niue, American Samoa, Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

The network, known as the South Pacific Islands Network (SPIN), will link to the rest of the world through three points: one in Honolulu; the second in Sydney (linked to Noumea); and the third in Cairns (linked to Port Moresby).

Rogers thanked internet pioneer Vint Cerf for inspiring the developments.

He attended the 2005 PacINET conference, held in Kiribati, where, he says, he asked Cerf if there was any way the Pacific Ocean could be used to enhance ICT connectivity. “Dr Cerf’s response was that, whilst technological solutions can always be found, it is having the correct vision and strategic leadership that more often than not holds the key to sustainable solutions,” Rogers said.

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