The Rationale for Affordable Broadband in the Pacific Islands: Food Security
Remote Pacific Island communities are at risk of a long-term problem with food security because they are unable to engage in regional and global knowledge sharing and services enabled by affordable, broadband-speed Internet.
It is our contention that broadband access, systems and skills capacity development represents an important investment for the long term food security of Pacific Island communities.
According to the World Health Organisation (see Reference A below) there are three pillars of food security to be considered:
- consistent availability of sufficient quantities;
- resources to enable access to appropriately nutritious food;
- knowledge of nutrition and safe handling for appropriate use.
Island communities are at risk of food insecurity, being highly dependent on fisheries, soil quality, and high levels of imports. Natural disasters can create short and long term crises for island populations.
Incomplete commodity trade information can also contribute to food insecurity with businesses and individuals vulnerable to unfair pricing.
Improved agriculture sustainability and food security has already been attributed to improved Internet access to rural African communities, yet the Pacific Islands region has not been able to fully enjoy the same developments.
- Tanzania’s ‘First Mile Project’ recruits market investigators to call farmers with market prices and has improved incomes for primary producers (see Reference B below). A modernised version of this in the Pacific, with an independent body updating local, regional, and global market prices online would streamline access to this information and improve outcomes for producers and consumers.
- Studies in Africa by the Institut de Recherché pour le Dévelopement (IRD, France – see Reference C below) have shown that with access to accurate rain forecasts, farmers can alter agriculture practices for higher crop yield. With similar facilities, particularly mobile internet, island agriculture producers can improve their community’s food security.
- The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation identify multiple areas for food security improvement in communities with ICT access (see Reference D below) including:
- “interactive and collaborative networks among government research and extension agencies, educational institutions, NGOs, input suppliers, product buyers, farmer organizations and rural media outlets;
- marketing information networks linking local market systems with provincial, national and global systems;
- agricultural distance learning and tele-training programmes;
- and specialized information networks for weather, environmental protection, disease and pest monitoring, famine and early warning systems.”
In general, internet access can improve shared understanding of locally-available food resources, production capability and nutrition diet benefits from local resources. It can also assist the optimisation of food sourcing and the matching of supply and demand, optimising the resources available to the community.
When it comes to natural disasters impacting food security, broadband internet access to all communities can also provide vital assistance:
- Internet capabilities will allow for early warning systems, giving communities time to stock-pile or better protect existing food supplies in the event of natural disasters.
- Widely accessible broadband speed Internet would also allow for better emergency response distribution as communities would be better able to communicate the needs in their area.
Access to affordable broadband for all communities, together with systems and skills capacity growth, represents an important investment for long term food security 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: Elizabeth Hart, Chris Sampson