Economic and Social Impact of ICT in the Pacific published

Economic and Social Impact of ICT in the Pacific publishedNuku’alofa, 17 June 2015 - A new report has highlighted the impacts of improved access to telecommunications infrastructure and services now being seen across the South Pacific and potential for greater information communications technology (ICT)-enabled development across the region. Click on View more news below to read the full media release, and access the report.

Economic and Social Impact of ICT in the Pacific, launched today in the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa as part of a meeting of Pacific region ICT ministers, examines the economic and social impact of the rapid rise in internet bandwidth, mobile phone usage and telecommunications market liberalisation that has been underway throughout the Pacific Islands region in the past decade. The report includes case studies of the impacts in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, plus a comparative analysis of lessons learned in recent years, and identifies key opportunities for investment and support for the future.

Launched by Tongan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Responsible for Information Communications Technology, the Honourable Siaosi Sovaleni, the report’s research was commissioned by the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), which is financed by the Asian Development Bank, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade,  and whose membership also includes the European Investment Bank, European Union, Japan International Cooperation Agency, and the World Bank Group.

This past decade has seen an extraordinary increase in access to mobile phone services in the region, including to some of the Pacific’s most remote areas and islands, as significantly improved market conditions have encouraged investment by the private sector and existing operators.

“Here in Tonga, where we landed a submarine cable financed by the Asian Development Bank and World Bank in August 2013, we have seen greatly improved access to high-speed Internet (particularly mobile) and falling prices,” said Deputy Prime Minister Sovaleni.

“Yet this report is not just about the technologies themselves; it’s about the impact they are having on our communities and economies, enabling us to leapfrog over more traditional, outdated and expensive systems of the past, and transform our lives.”

The High Commissioner for Australia, Brett Aldam, said Australia was pleased to be co-financing the ICT study through its support for the PRIF, because “Australia recognised the critical need to modernise communications in the Pacific in order to generate increased economic growth and social development.”

Sanjivi Rajasingham, Director of the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), said the report would help Pacific governments, telecoms operators, regulators and the private sector to identify opportunities for investment in technology-enabled services. This includes a list of 10 specific ‘intervention points’, which include the further strengthening of international connectivity through submarine cables, new pricing structures and competition, to the use of e-government and applications designed to boost tourism and exports, small industries, and innovative job creation.

“As the Pacific has gained access to significantly improved technology, better access, far cheaper mobile phones, calls, text and data, the pace of change in the Pacific has been extraordinary,” said Natasha Beschorner, Senior ICT Policy Specialist at The World Bank and Lead Coordinator of the PRIF ICT Sector Working Group, who introduced the report’s key findings.

“The changes have been widespread across sectors including agriculture, fisheries, tourism, education, health and financial services. “Importantly, this reportshows the opportunities that are now possible in the Pacific, and makes recommendations for governments, policy-makers and the private sector to answer the question, ‘Where to next?’”

Changes already seen in the Pacific, which have been highlighted in the Economic and Social Impact of ICT in the Pacific report, include:

  • Mobile coverage across Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu has jumped from less than half of the population in 2005 to 93% of the population in 2014.
  • The cost of mobile calls declined by one third between 2005 and 2014.
  • The percentage of cell phones in Pacific households rose from 49% in 2007 to 93% in 2014.
  • International internet bandwidth jumped over 1500% between 2007 and 2014, rising from less than 100 Megabits per second to over 1 Gigabits per second (excluding Fiji, which was already connected to a submarine cable in 2000).

 Recommendations for governments, policy-makers and development partners for the coming years that are in the report include:

  •  Strengthening of government and regulatory agencies to ensure that access to communications technology remains competitive, fairly-priced and accessible to all.
  • Development of basic digital literacy amongst the general public.
  • Putting the Pacific online: Support for increased communications technology use by governments to deliver services directly to citizens and business.
  • Support for applications such as online health, education, trade facilitation services
  • Investments in information communications technology skills – including government-industry partnerships – to build employment opportunities that are now possible with the increased availability of affordable broadband internet.

To read the Economic and Social Impact of ICT in the Pacific report, visit

www.theprif.org/index.php/resources/document-library/121-prif-ict-study-report-2015