Connect the Blue Continent
Rationale for affordable broadband access to Pacific Island Communities – enabling the future sustainable development goals (SDG’s)
Remote Pacific Island communities are at risk of a new cycle of long-term poverty and aid dependency because they are unable to engage in global activity and knowledge enabled by affordable, broadband-speed Internet. The development of a comprehensive broadband network throughout the Pacific Islands region addresses each of the 16 UN ‘MyWorld 2015’ priorities and our contention is that affordable broadband access, systems and skills capacity growth should be the top development priority.
Some high level explanation of the relevance of broadband to each of the 16 UN themes is explained below.
Energy and environment:
– Protecting forests, rivers and oceans;
– Action taken on climate change;
– Reliable energy at home
The most significant contribution of Broadband access for improved environmental and energy outcomes is the increased capacity for knowledge sharing. The vast majority of human knowledge is held online and vested in human experts around the globe. With Broadband connectivity, Island communities can better access this knowledge.
For example, understanding the causes and implications of climate change, accessing the best scientific data, combined with an inherent understanding of their own environment will improve the capacity of Islands to adapt to the impacts of climate change, to which they are particularly vulnerable.
Easier access to natural resource management research is essential. An understanding of the need to diversify energy production and the options available for solar, wind, and geothermal energy generation can improve energy security and contribution to new economic activity.
Social justice and freedom:
– An honest and responsive government
– Political freedoms
– Equality between men and women
– Protection against crime and violence
– Freedom from discrimination and persecution
Social justice is enabled by transparent government and well-educated societies. With broadband access governments and communities that are physically isolated from each other can better share policies, legislation, and methods of tackling shared issues. Most importantly, access to broadband gives communities a voice. Having a convenient link to their governments will allow citizens to share their needs and to hold government accountable for outcomes by sharing their experiences with a global audience. This is particularly important for young people as it develops self-worth and political engagement.
– Better health care
– Access to clean water and sanitation
– Affordable and nutritious food
The Pacific Islands face disproportionately high levels of non-communicable diseases (eg diabetes) and preventable diseases (eg malaria). This is due in part to dependence on imported food not suited to the lifestyle and metabolism of Islanders and insufficient waste treatment capacity.
Climate change is significantly affecting local food production; access to broadband will provide access to research on improved cultivation techniques.
Most communities have minimal access to regular healthcare, which exasperates normally low-risk health problems. Publicly accessible Broadband will allow better knowledge sharing on the importance of good diets and safe food handling, research on early intervention and prevention for diseases, scientific methods for low-input waste treatment and remote consultation with medical professionals.
Education, employment and infrastructure:
– Better job opportunities
– A good education
– Support for people who can’t work
– Better transport and roads
Broadband also provides improved education and employment outcomes. Students can engage with teachers remotely through video call classes and better access information, advanced research and interactive learning tools. This gives young people far better job prospects as they can go on to Open Access university education without having to leave their communities.
There is a lack of employment prospects in the Islands. Broadband access has the potential to create new industry and boost promotion of the region’s assets, particularly eco-tourism. There is also potential for people to work remotely, communicating with head offices of businesses by email and video-conferencing. Often women, as primary carers, miss out on education and employment. They will be most significantly impacted by online access to education and employment.
Access to affordable broadband for all communities, together with systems and skills capacity growth, represents the best investment for enabling the 16 sustainable development goals across the Pacific Islands region and a viable future for all communities. Please join our call for a joint regional policy initiative to ‘Connect the Blue Continent’.
Authors: Chris Sampson, Elizabeth Hart
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