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This paper explores the telecommunications and information infrastructures
of the microstates of the Pacific Region and analyzes its implications
for the ability of these countries to participate in the emerging
Global Information Infrastructure (GII). Specifically, this paper
explores the question of whether the recent telecommunications developments
will enable Pacific Islands countries to "leap-frog" into
the GII or whether narrowband networks and services will continue
to be the dominant but "backroad" GII interconnection for
the Pacific Region.
There is considerable dialogue in developed countries about the ongoing
convergence of computing, communications, and entertainment technologies,
and the development of "National Information Infrastructures"
(NII). These discussions often focus on the continuing revolution
in telecommunications and information technologies and the role of
the NII in economic and business development; consumer services such
as entertainment, video on demand, and interactive multi-media; and,
public service applications such as distance education and telemedicine.
The underlying assumption of these dialogues is that bandwidth via
optical fiber cable, direct broadcast terrestrial and satellite services,
and any other emerging and appropriate technology, will be available
to carry the market and application requirements inexpensively.
The discussions within the developed nations are parallel to discussions
at the regional and international forums focused on the interconnection
of the country NII networks to form a "Global Information Infrastructure."
Meetings of the G7, Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), Asia-Pacific
Telecommunity (APT), and other regional and international organizations
have had many discussions on the development of a GII. These regional
and international organizations are addressing the many issues of
international cooperation, development communications, trade liberalization,
The continuous revolutionary developments in technology, coupled
with the deregulation of telecommunications within nations, trade
liberalization of telecommunications among nations, and the dialogues
over national and global information infrastructures have encouraged
some Pacific Islands observers to suggest a possible "leap-frog"
in the telecommunications and information infrastructure by the Pacific
Islands Region, even to a point beyond the developing countries of
the Pacific Rim.(1) While it is hopeful that a leap-frog will occur,
there are many policy, market, and other barriers that will have to
be overcome to allow such a desirable progression into the future.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the telecommunications and
information infrastructures of the microstates of the Pacific
and the implications for the ability of these countries to participate
in the emerging Global Information Infrastructure. Specifically,
paper explores whether the recent telecommunications developments
will result in a "Pacific leap-frog" into the GII
or whether narrowband networks and services will continue
to be the dominant
but "backroad" GII interconnection for the Pacific Region.
The paper reviews developments in the Pacific Region in relationship
to world wide trends, discusses barriers to development of an information
infrastructure, identifies public service telecommunications as
area for priority development and suggests an agenda for policy makers
in the Pacific Islands Region.
THE PACIFIC ISLANDS REGION
A brief review of the Pacific Region is appropriate since it is sometimes
difficult to comprehend the extent of the vast distances, small island
land masses and populations, and huge differences between the smallest
and the largest countries of the region.(2)
The Pacific Region as shown in Figure 1 consists of thousands of islands
scattered throughout the Pacific. The vast physical distances among
these countries is best illustrated by looking at the water area of
the region about 54 million square kilometers or 21 million square
miles of ocean. The Pacific Ocean covers one third of the world and
the small land masses of the Pacific Islands together with their Exclusive
Economic Zones (EEZ's) of surrounding ocean are larger than the land
masses of the continental United States and Latin America combined.
Table 1 shows at a glance, the population, land area, sea area, and
political status of the Pacific microstates. The table shows the relative
small populations and vast sea areas in the region. Papua New Guinea
(PNG), Fiji and the Solomon Islands are the most populous countries
of the region and have over 80% of the region's population.
Table 1 also shows the great differences between Pacific countries.
Papua New Guinea, for example, has a land mass of 462 thousand
kilometers and a population of 4.2 million people compared with Niue
with 259 square kilometers and a population of 2,500. The countries,
in general, are not well endowed with natural resources and are very
dependent on foreign aid. Some exceptions are Papua New Guinea,
it has diverse and rich resources, and Nauru because it has low population
and very high per capita incomes due to its rock phosphate resource.
The economies of most Pacific Countries are based on subsistence
agriculture and fishing with pockets of export potential in
mining, deep sea fishing,
tourism, small scale manufacturing, and some specialized agricultural
products. Many of the smaller countries are without any natural
except the ocean surrounding them.
Nearly all Pacific countries are dependent on foreign aid, which on
a per capita basis across the region, is the highest in the world.
Dependence on foreign aid is itself an issue both for donors as well
as for recipient countries. There are large differences in the relative
abilities of Pacific countries to absorb this aid effectively and
growing signs of aid fatigue are evident among donors. It is clear
that not many Pacific countries will be able to continue even their
current low growth rates should the donor countries continue to retreat
from the region.
It is useful therefore to differentiate the Pacific countries according
to their relative ability to build a potentially viable economy at
current or reduced levels of aid. One key indicator in this regard
is their ability to develop their telecommunications infrastructure
and integrate it with the GII.
DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS IN THE PACIFIC REGION
The domestic and international telecommunications infrastructures
of the Pacific countries have improved dramatically over the past
20 years, although a few countries continue to lag behind in their
domestic communications particularly as measured in telephone lines
per 100 of population.
4.1 DOMESTIC TELECOMMUNICATIONS
The progress in the development of the telecommunications infrastructure
in the Pacific Islands Region has been a priority, during the
two decades, for governments and regional institutions, such as
the South Pacific Forum Secretariat. Before the prioritization,
telecommunications environment of the Pacific Region can only be
described as primitive. There were very few switches and telephones
interisland links were by HF radio, often of World War II vintage.
Satellites were not used for domestic communications because
the dominant satellite operator, at that time, provided only for
international services. Today, a survey would reveal a dramatic
improvement in both
domestic and international telecommunications and the information
infrastructure as a whole.
Table 2 shows the service level deployment of lines for telephony
service and government ownership. The table also shows that several
of the Pacific countries have a significant number of main lines
100 of population and nearly all of the countries have established
digital switches in their main urban centers. Table 2 also shows
the ownership of the telecommunications infrastructure generally
remains in the hands of government or government corporations.
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and the Republic
of the Marshall Islands (RMI) are notable exceptions. Telephone
in the CNMI are completely privately owned and in the RMI the National
Telecommunications Authority is also a private corporation with
of the shares owned by government.
4.2 INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS
International telecommunications in the Pacific Region have also improved
dramatically during the past 20 years. The Pacific countries almost
without exception have replaced old HF radio serving international
routes with satellite services, most of which have already been converted
to digital carrier technology. Submarine cable systems which provide
international connectivity to some island countries are mostly the
incidental landings of intercontinental cables installed to carry
trans-Pacific traffic. These links traditionally have provided excellent
service to a few fortunate Pacific countries but their numbers are
shrinking as new technology cables span greater distances, minimizing
landings for shore based service facilities.
Table 3 shows the submarine cables that have been deployed or planned.
Many more are in the North rather than in the South Pacific.
2 shows the submarine cable network in the Asia-Pacific Region in
the 1980's and Figure 3 shows the optical fiber submarine cables
are planned or in service. Together, these figures show that the
only countries in the region that are served by submarine cables
Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The CNMI is expected to have fiber connectivity
in 1996 that will link Saipan, Tinian, and Rota to Guam.(3) Palau
is in the process of investigating the possibility of a fiber
An interesting situation that will come about with the further installation
of submarine fiber cables is the retirement of copper cables.
this process proceeds, there will likely be a reduction of countries
that will have cable access. Fiji and PNG, for example, may be
danger of losing their cable feeds since it is no longer necessary
to land the new technology cables as often for power feeding
access. The economic cost of landing the fiber cables has not been
justified by the small communications markets in these Island
Satellite communications have been, and will continue to be for the
foreseeable future, the principal international telecommunications
infrastructure of the Pacific Region.(4) Intelsat is the almost
satellite carrier of public telecommunications in the Pacific and
has full Pacific coverage through its global and hemispheric
footprints. Although there are many commercial satellites with footprints
covering parts of the Pacific these new satellites are not being
by Island Countries for their public telecommunications networks,
and little if at all for other services. None of the high power
beams on any of these satellites is primarily focused on the Pacific
Region for obvious market reasons.
The new satellite technologies likely to impact soon on the Pacific
are the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) systems. However, it appears likely
that these systems will not be designed for broadband applications.
As such, they will not be able to replace the missing high power
beams from the geostationary satellites and so will not be capable
of providing Pacific connectivity with the broadband information
in the developed world.
Of more concern, therefore, is the narrowband service which LEO's
will deliver in the Pacific. Those LEO systems with large footprints
and gateway earth stations which are too expensive to deploy
Pacific Con-tries and will be biased towards providing only international
services, unless the LEO itself can provide the links on both
of the gateway for a domestic connection. The alternative is for
the LEO operator to negotiate a very inexpensive backhaul via
satellite or cable facilities and that does not look a likely proposition
given the small traffic volumes involved.
Those LEO systems which have footprints too small to cover the distance
between Pacific Islands and Pacific littoral countries will not be
able to provide any service at all unless their gateway stations are
affordable in the Pacific Countries. It is too early yet to be sure
what the outcomes will be and exactly what sort of narrowband services
the LEO's will be able to provide in the Pacific.
INTERNET IN THE PACIFIC AND THE GII
For many Pacific countries "Internet," next to basic telephone
service, is one of the most important telecommunications services
to government, education, and other nonprofit institutions. Access
to information, electronic mail, and the ability to transfer computer
files are important to many government and educational institutions,
and especially regional organizations that have a need to communicate
with other organizations around the world.
With over 70 million users and almost every organization of size connected
in some way in the developed and emerging economies, Internet is viewed
as one of the most important communications tools to help overcome
some of the severe information barriers to development which impact
on Pacific countries.(5)
The traditional transport of written and printed information is through
the postal service. In the Pacific, the postal service can take
from three days by special delivery, one to two weeks normally, and
perhaps up to two months given the remoteness of some destinations
in the Pacific. Thus, it is no surprise that Internet, and more
electronic mail, is viewed by the developing microstates of the Pacific
Region as a means to reduce disparities in access to needed resources.
Ultimately, Internet is poised to become a means to improve education,
enhance health and welfare services, facilitate economic development,
and to enable participation of Pacific people in the GII. The
of Internet and the information and services that are available
through the Internet, suggest that it could become the most important
factor in reducing the "information gap" between the developed
world and the developing countries of the Pacific.
There are several reasons why the use of Internet, especially its
interactive services, has been limited in the Pacific Region.
there is a general lack of understanding of its potential. Most of
the potential users of Internet in the Pacific have yet to experience
"surfing the net" or even the exchanging of electronic
mail. This lack of understanding and experience makes it difficult
users and policy makers to be able to understand the benefits and
value of Internet.
Second, the cost of dial-up telecommunications are high and there
are no policy frameworks, programs, or other subsidies which lessen
the very high cost of connecting to the Internet through a voice circuit
via Australia or New Zealand to the West or the USA to the East. The
international telephone per-minute rates for calls in the Pacific
countries are considerably higher than they are developed countries.
The rates may vary from 75 cents per minute to $3.00 per minute, depending
on the time of day and day of week the call is made. The cost of "dial-up"
calls simply puts this method out of reach for the Pacific market,
even for batch mail transfers through "UUCP" type connections.
The cost of leased services is also very high. For example, as reported
by Okamura, Blake, Lam and Mukaida (1995:811), "the University
of the South Pacific (USP) at the Suva, Fiji campus is currently paying
$90,000 Fijian annually (about $60,000 US Dollars) for a 4.8 Kbps
link from Fiji to Australia."(6) The dedicated circuit is used
solely for USP access to Internet. This bandwidth will not support
Internet applications beyond electronic mail and other text services
for its user population but it is far better than not having any Internet
services. The high cost of leased services also inhibits Internet
access from the extension centers of USP.(7)
To address both of these barriers to access, the Forum Secretariat
Telecommunications Division proposed a "value-trial" of
Internet in the Pacific Region. The trial began service in Fiji in
December 1995. The purpose of the trial is to provide a subsidized
Internet service for as many participants as possible from Fiji and
other Pacific countries to test the market and to generate a core
of knowledgeable Internet users. The ability to provide a trial subsidy
for a limited time period was made possible by provision of international
transmission from Telecom New Zealand and Fiji International Telecommunications
Ltd. By this means, it is hoped that entrepreneurs in the Pacific
will also develop their knowledge and use of the network to export
Pacific information to the world as well as to import information
and E-mail from the world for use in the Pacific.
Access to Internet and electronic mail is better in parts of the
North Pacific. There are several Internet and electronic mail
in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated
States of Micronesia, and American Samoa. However, the cost of
services is still beyond the financial means of many public service
institutions and the general population.
Today, Guam has the most developed Internet environment both for
the public as well as the private sector. There are several
for electronic mail access through the competitive international
carriers and small companies. The University of Guam also has
a 64 Kbps link
to the University of Hawaii used for educational purposes. The Guam
link costs about $48,000 per year.(8) There are also other Internet
providers for the private sector. In the FSM, CompuServe and
services are available through an economy packet network service.
"PUBLIC SERVICE" NETWORKS IN THE PACIFIC
At the same time as there is a growing awareness of the importance
and usefulness of an information infrastructure in the Pacific
there is also a renewed interest in "public service" networks,
some of which have been around for many years. "Public Service"
telecommunications have been defined broadly by Okamura and Mukaida
(1995:14) as "the use of telecommunications and information
technologies by government, educational, and nonprofit organizations
medical and health services, emergency management, environment and
resource management, and economic development."
In most developed countries the use of telecommunications and information
technologies for public services are well-developed and accepted
concepts. Public radio, public television, and rural distance
and telemedicine programs are a few examples of subsidized programs
in developed countries. In many developing countries, however,
concept has not been fully developed or even explored in depth. Further,
in the past, the concept of public service telecommunications
been mostly regarded with suspicion if not hostility by established
monopoly Telco's, but attitudes are changing and there is good
for optimism for the future of these services.
The increasing awareness of the potential of "Public Service"
telecommunications operators in the Pacific Islands region may be
attributed to four major sources. First, regional organizations,
in the South Pacific, have been aggressively promoting a telecommunications
and information infrastructure for their own organizational purposes.
Regional organizations must maintain communication with their constituencies
and a good telecommunications infrastructure is essential.
Second, regional organizations led by the Forum Secretariat have
been directing attention to the regulatory issues and on opportunities
for organizations, both main-stream telecommunication carriers
those on the fringes, to contribute to improved service delivery
and affordability of both basic and value-added services.
Third, programs such as the Telecommunication and Information Infrastructure
Assistance Program of the United States have generated considerable
interest by government and educational institutions in the information
Finally, experimental programs such as the Pan Pacific Education and
Communication Experiments by Satellite (PEACESAT) and Pan Pacific
Regional telecommunications Network Experiment and Research by Satellite
(PARTNERS) have provided a stimulus to advance concepts of public
service telecommunications. The fact that PEACESAT, which already
provides basic access to Internet for some government, education,
and non-governmental users throughout the Pacific, is being up-graded
to increase its digital capacity, connectivity and service in the
Pacific Islands Region has caused great interest.(9)
There are several existing satellites that provide limited services
for "Public Service" network operators without charging
for the space segment in both the North and South Pacific.
systems have very limited capacity and are primarily designed for
other purposes. PEACESAT, for example, uses a satellite that
designed and launched for weather data gathering purposes.(10) The
Japan "PARTNERS" network, which is used for distance
education and telemedicine experiments in Fiji, PNG, and Hawaii,
uses the ETS-V
satellite which was originally developed for mobile satellite communication
experiments.(10) Intelsat also has a SHARE program that enables microstates
to use excess bandwidth on a preemptive basis.(11) Parts of the University
of the South Pacific Network used the Intelsat SHARE links for a
BARRIERS TO A PACIFIC INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE
There still remains a considerable gap in both basic and advanced
services despite the fundamental improvements in the telecommunications
and information infrastructure of countries in the Pacific Region.
Cutler and Associates (1994) suggests that the gap in basic telephony
services will take many years, perhaps decades, to overcome if
investment remains at present levels. This indicates that, at best,
the existing gap between Pacific countries and their neighbors
the Pacific Rim will stay much as it is at present for basic telephony
services, neither reducing nor increasing. The gap for value-added
services and the information services of the future is likely
because of the inability of Pacific countries to gain access to the
benefits of optical fiber and V-SAT technologies which provide
In many advanced countries attention is being given to extending
the present definition of basic service on which notions of community
service obligations of telephone companies are both based and
The basic service of the future is likely to be able to deliver a
range of simple information, facsimile, banking, and other services
made possible by digital technology, on top of the basic voice
The conventional view is that there is little chance of such a redefinition
of basic service in the Pacific Region until the plain old telephone
service is available to everyone.
This view, however, is in stark contrast to at least one Pacific observer
who suggests that "all is not as bleak as it sounds." Ogden
(1995:593), for example, acknowledges that "[a]ccording to conventional
wisdom, ... [it] appears that the Pacific Islands states and territories
are much too small, too poorly endowed with resources, and too isolated
from the centers of economic growth for their inhabitants ever to
rise above their present condition of dependence on the largess of
the wealthier metropolitan nations." However, Ogden argues that
"[a]s pernicious as this view has been in past as well as present
development planning in the Pacific Islands, all is not as bleak
it sounds. In a perverse way, many of the Pacific island nations
are fortunate that they have lagged so far behind the curve when
to telecommunication technologies. Rapid technological advances in
digital telecommunications coupled with declining costs mean that
latecomers can 'leap-frog' to a level of services not much different
from those that even the relatively rich Rim countries could only
have dreamed of five years ago."
This optimistic view must be evaluated in relationship to the realities
of the Pacific Islands region. There are several important barriers
that contribute to the continuation of the availability gap in
basic and value-added services. First, the geography, low population
and absence of an abundance of natural resources in the Pacific
will continue to be a barrier to the development of telecommunications
and information infrastructures in the region. In essence, this
translates as insufficient capital investment to service profitable
opportunities and to cross-subsidize unprofitable but socially
Second, and understandably, there are conflicting views of the value
of such an infrastructure. There is always a real question as
scarce budget resources should be spent on books or computers. Although
we are not addressing such issues here, it is important that
be at least acknowledged. Further, there are always questions about
the impact of new communications technologies on Pacific cultures
and whether the imposition of these developments are in the interests
of the Pacific peoples or those of external countries and companies.
These conflicting views are not often documented but are ever
in discussions of the Pacific Islands Region.
Third, there is a lack of trained personnel to support the development
of an information infrastructure within many of the Pacific countries.
This problem cannot be resolved through a one-time training program,
but requires a continuous effort in human resources development.
Fourth, there is no contemporary policy framework to support the
development of a national information infrastructure in many
of the Pacific countries.
The institutional and regulatory disability in most countries derives
from their colonial legacy of legislation and regulation which
framed many years ago and which in most cases remains in place today.
In some countries, even the advent of corporatized or partially
telecommunications service providers has not significantly altered
this situation. Even in those countries which have established
of policy and legislation commensurate with contemporary structures
of the service providers, these new frameworks are often too
to allow evolutionary changes at the speed which is desirable given
the market place changes happening now. Some of the exclusive
venture franchise agreements negotiated in the relatively recent
past are seen now as too inflexible to be always in the best
At the same time, Ogden may be correct in postulating that Pacific
countries will be able to participate fully in the enhanced capability
of the basic telephone service, or at least those people who
a telephone and can afford the costs will do so.
Most Pacific countries have converted their international links and
their main switches from analogue to digital technology. This
the technical possibility for enhanced services. However, it is a
much more risky proposition to forecast when basic services will
available to everyone in the Pacific region and just as difficult
to predict when digital services will be delivered to customers
There are few indications that the digital revolution can extend
to Pacific countries as rapidly as it has in the developed world.
PACIFIC INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE - AN AGENDA FOR POLICY MAKERS
In summary, any discussion of an NII or GII based on high-capacity
networks for the Pacific Region is simply irrelevant today.
of the Pacific Region, with the exception of Guam, the Commonwealth
of the Northern Mariana Islands, and perhaps Palau, will not
via fiber to the international grid in the foreseeable future. Further,
even though there are many satellites that have footprints over
Pacific, there is presently little indication that these footprints
will put high satellite power (EIRP) onto Pacific countries
the inexpensive V-SAT services and private broadband networks that
are available in the Northern Hemisphere. This chronic lack
bandwidth in almost all countries will mean that the dominant mode
of connections from the Pacific into the GII will continue to
on narrowband links, at least for the foreseeable future.
This will lead to the development of a Pacific Information Infrastructure
which is far different than those of developed countries and
even from developing countries of East and Southeast Asia. For the
Pacific Islands Region, the need is for more telephones, more
data communications, basic access to electronic mail and file transfer
services, and better radio and television services. The GII
Pacific means the effective interconnection of these services with
the rest of the world, and in particularly, it means access to
mail and the Internet, and the creative applications of narrowband
technologies in high potential areas such as trade and economic
education, and health and medical services.
At the same time, the development of the narrowband Pacific infrastructure
is no less important for the prosperity of Pacific countries
the development of a broadband infrastructure is in other parts of
the world. Accordingly, the development of a domestic information
infrastructure and its connections to the emerging global information
infrastructure should become, once more, a priority area of interest
for policy makers in the Pacific Region, as was the development
the telephone network in the 1980's. A revitalization of interest
in the information infrastructure is a precondition to ensure
the "telecommunications gap" does not widen further, especially
for value-added and information services.
The recognition of such priorities should ideally lead to discussions
among stakeholders - government and education policy makers,
carriers, public service carriers, and others (e.g. regional organizations
and non-governmental organizations) to develop appropriate regional
strategies, programs, and regulatory changes designed to benefit
both national and regional interests.
Many difficult issues will need to be addressed in order to build
on the successes of the past to secure the benefits of the revolution
in telecommunications and information technology. Some of these issues
include the redefining of roles and relationships among users,
and carriers, the optimizing of the role of the "Public Service"
telecommunications networks, the development of appropriate reinvestment
strategies for telecommunications carriers, and the pricing and
subsidies for value-added services. "Public Service" networks
promoted by the University of Hawaii and innovative experiments by
the South Pacific Forum Secretariat are offered as examples of how
a Pacific Information Infrastructure is being actively promoted.
activities should be seen as complementary and vital to the participation
of Pacific microstates in the future information economy, and not
competitive with the mainstream operators.
Although in the past most Pacific countries have been preoccupied
with national rather than regional issues there have been a few
successful regional initiatives. The PACT DAMA network promoted by
the Forum Secretariat and largely financed by Australia is one
these, and the PEACESAT network, initiated by the University of Hawaii
and funded with U.S. assistance, is another.
The long term availability of space segment capacity for "Public
Service" network providers is another very important concern
for policy makers and for Pacific Countries. Up to now, the National
Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) of the U.S. Department
of Commerce has been almost alone in leading the discussion on the
future possibilities for the continuing availability of this very
valuable resource. Today, it may be timely for a regional interest
group of NGO's, regional organizations, Island Counties and principal
donor's of aid programs in the Pacific to collaborate on this very
There is no indication that technology will become available in the
foreseeable future which will enable people and countries of
Region to afford to participate in the broadband information infrastructure
which is rapidly evolving in the Northern Hemisphere and Asia.
costs and prices in the sparsely populated Pacific may never be as
low as they will be in the developed world. At the same time,
real needs of Pacific people can be met, and a very effective interconnection
with the global information infrastructure can be developed using
narrowband technology, provided that the application of this
is sufficient to cover the entire region.
Low earth orbit satellite technology will obviously present some
opportunities for the Pacific but, like nearly all communications
for application in other parts of the world, some adaptation either
technically or organizationally is likely to be required if an
application is to be achieved for island countries. Likewise with
existing, and other emerging technologies it is likely that the
organizational, and regulatory issues will be more important than
the technology itself in determining the information future of
There are some indications that these policy, organizational, and
regulatory issues are being addressed by countries and regional
For example, in the South Pacific, the Forum Secretariat has been
closely involved in technical training and technology planning
of telecommunications for the last two decades. Now the focus of
the Forum Secretariat has shifted to the institutional and regulatory
issues and promotion of value-added and information services
basic voice services. It has also shifted to a concern for the consumers
of telecommunications that are not being served by traditional
Women, community organizations and grass roots providers of education,
health and welfare services are high on the list of consumers
that are not being well-served. This reality must be viewed against
the background of falling aid to the traditional telecommunications
sector. The implication is that aid in the future for telecommunications
is likely to target telecommunications consumers rather than
service providers. NGO's and regional organizations currently providing
such grass roots services are likely to be well placed in the
for what aid funds continue to flow in the telecommunications sector
as we approach the end of the 1990's.
In the North Pacific, there are also indications that these issues
are being addressed. The Association of Pacific Island Legislatures,
for example, has established a committee that is attempting to
telecommunication issues and to develop a regional program effort
in the area of telecommunications. The Pacific Basin Development
(regional organization), the Pacific Caucus of Emergency Managers
(Users), the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Federal Emergency
Management Agency, and PEACESAT have collaborated to initiate
development of an Emergency Management Network. Guam is seriously
studying the possible privatization of its telecommunications
The resilience and creativity of the regional organizations and the
persistence by which government policy makers, administrative
and users seek to address these issues will be very important factors
in the future of Pacific telecommunications and the development.
an appropriate Information Infrastructure for the Pacific.
* * * * *
* The opinions and the interpretations in this paper are those of
the authors and do not necessarily represent, nor do they purport
to represent, the views, opinions, or the work programs of the South
Pacific Forum Secretariat or the Social Science Research Institute
of the University of Hawaii.
Parts of the data for this study are based on research funded in part
by the Hawaii Information Network Corporation.
1. The idea of a "leap-frog" is ever-present in papers discussing
telecommunications in the Pacific Islands region. In 1983, for example,
Karunaratne (1983: 93) suggests that "[t]he Pacific Islands Nations
face the prospect of leap-frogging into an information era from a
subsistence economy." Twelve years later, the same sentiment
is echoed by Ogden (1995). These views emphasize the promise of telecommunications
and information technology, but, unfortunately, tend to ignore important
policy, political, cultural, and economic (market) barriers that would
enable the leap-frog to occur.
2. There are very large differences among the Pacific Island microstates
in culture, geography, political organization, extent of urbanization,
and so on. These differences cannot be explored in this paper, but
need to be acknowledged at the start.
3. "Tenorio signs lease for fiber optic cable." Marianas
Variety News and Views, November 11, 1995. The article reported that
the cost of telephone calls between CNMI and the continental U.S.
will be $.55 per minute. The article cited the current costs for voice
telephony at $1.85 for the 1st minute and $1.75 for each subsequent
4. See Cooperman (1995) for a useful discussion of satellites in the
5. No one really knows how many computers are attached to the Internet.
However, the latest estimate reported by Dr. Haruhisa Ishida, President
of the Internet Society, at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity
held in Tokyo, Japan (October 17, 1995), is 70 million.
6. The same information on the cost of Internet was reported by John
Clayton, Manager of the Computer Center at the University of the South
Pacific, at the 11th World Communications Forum in Shibuya, Japan,
October 2627, 1995. His estimate was that USP pays U.S. $50,000 for
the 4.8 Kbps link to the Australia Research and Education Network
7. In the South Pacific the USP operates Extension Centers in 12 other
countries. Due to the cost of leased line telecommunications in the
region, none of these centers except for Fiji can access Internet
on a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week basis.
The high cost and low service of this access led the USP to hire a
consultant to explore the potential of a consortium to purchase additional
bandwidth to support both the University and a group of other NGO's.
The report of the consultant recommended that a link of 19.2 Kbps
be leased to initiate such a group service.
8. The cost of the link was reported by Dr. Hiro Kurashina, Director,
Micronesian Area Research Center, the University of Guam, at the Honolulu
Meeting on the Guidelines for Distance Education in the Pacific Islands,
Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Honolulu, Hawaii, January 26, 1995.
9. See Okamura and Mukaida (1995, September; and 1994) for a discussion
of the current and planned directions of PEACESAT.
10. PEACESAT currently uses an obsolete geostationary weather satellite,
GOES-2, provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The satellite has a very limited
bandwidth of 10 MHz and low power. As such, it has a limited capability
for support of the Pacific.
11. The Japan PARTNERS Network was established by the Japan Ministry
of Posts and Telecommunications in celebration of International Space
Year in 1990. The network enables sites in Fiji and PNG to participate
in distance education seminars and discussions through the use of
the Engineering Test Satellite (ETS-V). The video teleconferences
are 64 Kbps.
12. The Intelsat links used by USPNET include Fiji, Tonga, Cook Is,
Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji. HF is used in Western Samoa, Tuvalu,
Niue, Nauru. The Marshalls, Kiribati, Tokelau have no access. Intelsat
originally donated the use of these links for a period of time. It
is not known how much the links currently cost.
13. The USPNet consists of a single voice circuit used mainly for
the administration of the extension program. Tutorials are also supported
through the network. USP was a leader in the early 1970s in the use
of satellite communications for "distance learning." Today,
the extension program is essentially a correspondence program with
tutorial support provided by faculty and local tutors. These developments
were supported by USP's access via PEACESAT from 19721985.
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