Category Archives: Our Research

Rationale for affordable broadband access in the Pacific Islands: Education

Connect the Blue Continent

Rationale for affordable broadband access in the Pacific Islands: Education


Universal education has been globally identified as a priority development goal. For several decades, the provision of education material has been crucial to providing basic education capacity to communities, however the industrial-age approach to education provision does not keep pace with education in regions with widely accessible broadband speed internet. Without updated education infrastructure, there is a high risk of young minds slipping into the digital divide (see Broadband Commission links below). It is our contention that affordable broadband-speed internet is crucial to enable the Pacific Islands region to build a long term sustainable future for their communities in the digital age.

Risks and Opportunities

The two main challenges of education provision, which broadband access can alleviate, are tyranny of distance and provision of up-to-date information.

The geography and transport limitations across the Blue Continent make accessing education institutions difficult for many students.

At present, without school buildings, physical learning materials (ie costly textbooks) or teachers on islands, education can be inaccessible and the potential for further education is limited.

Schools and communities with internet access are better able to more frequently update teaching materials, however those without access or with only slow-speed risk lagging behind as more learning practices and materials require broadband-speed internet.

With satellite access, the University of the South Pacific has been able to establish a wide range of open access university courses (see Whelan references below). However, the ongoing costs of satellite are prohibitive for many citizens and access is not available to a significant number of unconnected islands.

The engineering and financial limitations of current satellite-based internet access emphasise the need for fibre-optic technologies and other higher-speed and more affordable technologies across the region, particularly for facilities such as video-conferencing to work at a practical and affordable level.

Physically isolated communities would benefit immeasurably through online education, including video lessons and conference call classrooms, so students can enjoy similar levels of engaged learning online as they might in a traditional classroom. With online monitoring, students can be as self-directed as is appropriate for their learning level (Wakefield 2013; see work by Prof. Sutga Mitra).

The concepts of shared education and pooling of lesson plans/learning objects are increasingly popular and allow for better use of knowledge resources. It can also facilitate the potential for a ‘guest lecturer’ style of lesson with specialist educators or researchers able to connect to communities, which would otherwise not be exposed to niche research areas (Pea et al 1994; Smyth, 2005).

Whelan (2008) identifies poor data collection networks and methods as challenges to the complete understanding of the needs and successes of ICT in Pacific schools. Considering the lack of funding available at present, innovative data collection is required. By improving the data on the relationship between education and ICTs, international development agencies would be better able to assess areas most in need, and the optimal approach to improvement.


It is unarguably essential that young people all over the world have access to education. With the advent of computer- and internet-based learning and knowledge sharing, the way we learn and our expectations of what we can learn has changed considerably. It is unrealistic to believe that young people can hope to engage in meaningful careers without the diversity of knowledge available online, and the capacity to use internet-based research. The Blue Continent is lagging behind significantly in this capacity building potential and we believe more focus and priority is needed across the region to stimulate investment in broadband infrastructure, skills, and systems.

Authors:  Elizabeth Hart, Chris Sampson


Broadband Commission Working Group on Education ‘Technology, broadband and education: Advancing the Education for All agenda’ January 2013

Broadband Commission, ‘Broadband “the missing link” in global access to education’ February 2013.

Pea, RD. Edelson, D. Gomez, L. ‘The CoVis Collaboratory: High school science learning supported by a broadband educational network with scientific visualization, videoconferencing, and collaborative computing’ Northwestern University. April 1994

Smyth,R. ‘Broadband videoconferencing as a tool for learner-centred distance learning for higher education.’

Whelan ‘Use of ICT in education in the South Pacific: Findings of the Pacific eLearning Observatory’ 2008.

Wakefield, J ‘TEDGlobal: Cloud schools offer new education’ 14 June 2013, BBC News

The Rationale for Affordable Broadband in the Pacific Islands: Food Security

Local food resources

Local food resources


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Disaster Recovery

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



Pacific Plan Review 2013We have made a submission to the Pacific Plan Review 2013 – a vital regional review taking place throughout 2013.


Our submission provides more information on our initiative to Connect the Blue Continent – and in particular our call for a master-plan to be developed for digital connectivity across the region.

It’s short and easy to read – see below.

Submission to the Pacific Plan Review 2013

For more information on the Pacific Plan Review 2013, see here.

Rationale for affordable broadband access in the Pacific Islands: Regional Security

Connect the Blue Continent

Rationale for affordable broadband access in the Pacific Islands: Regional security


The vast distances between islands in the Pacific region create logistical problems for collaboration between islands. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat places ICT connectivity as a priority for improving regional cooperation. Our research has shown regional security is influenced by communication between diverse cultural groups, transparent government, and collaboration. It is our contention that affordable broadband access to all communities can contribute to improvement in each aspect and therefore to regional security.

Communication between culturally diverse groups

The history of the Pacific region has created innumerable diverse cultural groups, holding to an array of traditional and modern-influenced cultures. Present isolation of many groups may, for some, be preferred to ensure traditional cultures are not ‘ruined’ by outside influences. However, the reality is that the languages and traditions of many groups are dying out and the valuable cultural knowledge of those societies is being lost. Collaboration between cultural groups and interested parties results in better knowledge preservation. Broadband access enables self-organised special interest groups to emerge which can make a significant contribution to cultural heritage and inter-cultural cooperation.

Transparency and accountability of government

Public access to the Internet is instrumental in the engagement of citizens in their political culture. Access to parliamentary decisions, comprehensive policy information and open media are cornerstones of informed democratic functioning. Accessible broadband-speed Internet facilitates public participation in governance and enables citizens to engage politically, regardless of their distance from political centres.

Simultaneously, with a forum for sharing of political information, governments are further encouraged to ensure transparency as they become subject to review (and criticism) from other regional governments. Higher levels of political information sharing show other governments effective approaches to issues they may face (such as challenges to accessible education).

Regional collaboration

The nature of disparate nations, each with minimal resources and infrastructure, creates an ideal situation for regional collaboration. As it is, there is neither the capacity nor need for each island to have expansive infrastructure (for example, extensive air travel networks). However, this lack of connective infrastructure makes inter-island collaboration and communication difficult and impedes growth of the region.

Suggestions have been made by some for a regional cooperative approach, in the style of the European Economic Community. Presently multiple representative bodies exist in the Pacific, yet there is no single body with representatives from each nation. While important, these bodies do not strictly regulate cooperation through the whole region. Most programs target a few nations, depending on prior colonial connections with powerful nations (ie USA, France, UK), resulting in unequal rates of development, with the risk that independent nations may be disadvantaged.

The opportunity exists to better connect governments and communities between islands through accessible broadband speed Internet. Most central governing groups (parliaments etc) have Internet access but slow and unreliable connections create logistical issues. Those groups without Internet access fall out of the regional communication loop. Some jurisdictions are already experiencing development lag as a result of poor ICT infrastructure.

Provision of accessible broadband-speed Internet is an essential step to establish cooperative regional governance and development. Collaboration creates an environment for knowledge sharing, particularly in terms of building climate change resilience, natural resource management, education and health knowledge sharing, and maintaining cultural diversity.


These are some of the reasons why it is a priority to invest in affordable broadband infrastructure, systems development and skills capacity development across the Pacific Islands communities – to Connect The Blue Continent.


Authors: Elizabeth Hart, Chris Sampson

Please contact us via our FaceBook page – and Like the page to support us – thanks !


N.G. Tavana, ‘Traditional Knowledge is the Key to Sustainable Development in Samoa: Examples of ecological, botanical and taxonomical knowledge.’

Dari E. Sylvester and Adam J. McGlynn ‘The Digital Divide, Political Participation, and Place’
Social Science Computer Review 2010 28: 64 originally published online 12 June 2009

Australian Government ‘Declaration of Open Government’ 16 July 2010


Rationale for affordable broadband access to Pacific Island Communities – enabling improved health and well-being

Connect the Blue Continent

Rationale for affordable broadband access to Pacific Island Communities – enabling improved health and well-being

Remote Pacific Island communities are at risk of a long-term health crisis and health-related aid dependency because they are unable to engage in global knowledge sharing and services enabled by affordable, broadband-speed Internet.

It is our contention that broadband access, systems and skills capacity development represents the best investment for the long term health and well-being of Pacific Island communities.

Current risks

Pacific Island communities are currently facing a number of major public health issues.

The levels of obesity, diabetes and heart disease are a major concern.

According to research in ‘Poverty Climate change and health in Pacific Island countries’ by Dr A Russell (see Reference A below), American Samoa, Tokelau and the Marshall Islands have more than 40 percent of adults aged 25 to 64 years old with diabetes. It is estimated that the number of diabetes sufferers could double by 2025 if no action is taken.

Recent surveys found that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults aged 25 to 64 years is as high as 93.5 percent in Tokelau and American Samoa; 93.3 percent in Nauru; 88.5 percent in Cook Islands; 85.1 percent in Samoa; 80.1 percent in Marshall Islands; and 62.8 percent in Fiji. In the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa and Tonga more than 60 percent of population is obese. Only Papua New Guinea has a low level of obesity (less than 5 percent of the population).

According to this research, another challenge is breathing and gastroenteritic diseases, which are related to water pollution, poor sanitation and inappropriate health and hygiene practices. Sewage contamination of coastal water is also a risk for cholera outbreaks.

In addition, Malaria causes the death of nearly 800 local residents each year. It is endemic in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Islands have some of the highest expenditures on health among developing countries. They spend around 13 percent of their total government expenditure on health, compared to 9 percent for the Caribbean Islands.

This research shows that, despite investment in the development of national nutrition action plans and promotion of healthy eating and physical activity, poor nutrition, obesity and the resulting health consequences show little improvement.

Opportunities that Broadband provides

  • Broadband improves awareness and knowledge

One of Broadband’s most valuable impacts on health is raising communities’ knowledge and awareness around healthy life-styles, healthy diets and how to prevent or manage different diseases. Prevention or early treatment drastically reduces the social and economic costs to the community.

  • Broadband and Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Broadband access and appropriate systems can help improve health care to remote communities by enabling enhanced medical record keeping which give patients and authorized providers an instant and centralized access to critical information such as health histories, medical images and treatment regimes (Reference B).

This enables efficient and effective exchange of patient and treatment information by removing geography and time barriers to care – and this approach is more affordable – on average 20% less costly than on-site solutions (Reference C).

  • Broadband and Video Consultation

Video conferencing with a doctor or specialist helps people in remote areas to access specialist, high quality diagnosis and treatment services. Combining video conferencing with EHR can deliver significantly cost savings and improved outcomes.

  • Broadband and Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring can remove barriers to earlier detection of health problems through indicators like blood pressure or glucose level (Reference D). This enables the options of preventative diet or exercise life-style changes or other early treatments.


Access to affordable broadband for all communities, together with systems and skills capacity growth, represents the best investment for long term health and well-being 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:  Bahar Forghani, Chris Sampson


A. Dr. Russell, April 2009, Poverty Climate change and health in Pacific Island countries

B. Neurberger, August 2011, CISSP, Advancing Healthcare Through Broadband,

C. US Federal Communications Commission, National Broadband Health Plan,

D. Australia Government Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy, April 2012, NBN Diabetes Telehealth in Townsville

Rationale for broadband – UN Sustainable Development Goals

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

Please contact us via our FaceBook page – and Like the page to support us – thanks !




Rationale for affordable broadband in the Pacific Islands: Economic Development

Connect the Blue Continent

The Rationale for Affordable Broadband in the Pacific Islands: Economic development


Remote Pacific Island communities are at risk of a new, long-term poverty and aid dependency cycle because they are unable to engage in modern economic activity using affordable, broadband-speed Internet access (“broadband”).

As the result of small stagnant economies and few working opportunities, more than 150,000 Pacific islanders have migrated to United Sates and Hawaii (John M. July 2012). This is a major threat to the viable existence of these communities into the future.

The economic rationale for investment in broadband infrastructure, systems and skills development in the Pacific Islands region (the ‘Blue Continent’) is based around enabling businesses and government to participate in the advanced global economy.

Economic rationale

Penetration of broadband has spread rapidly during the last decade. Businesses, communities and governments have become dependent on broadband connectivity to facilitate communication and economic activity.

However this has occurred mostly in developed countries.

Recently, the booming economies of China and India have significantly increased their online presence and are using digital techniques to engage in diverse economic activities.

But how can broadband make a significant difference to growth and development of a remote island economy?

In any-sized economy, access to broadband accelerates the distribution of ideas and information that leads to the development of new products, processes, and business models.

This increases creativity and innovation and, as a result, competition in the market. For an increased number of businesses in the market to be successful, the production of higher quality goods and value added services is a key factor, thus productivity, quality and efficiency is going to be improved (OECD, Ministerial Final Report 2007).

Importantly, for small island economies, broadband enables specialist goods and services to be distributed in a larger, wider global market, and enables optimal sourcing of inbound material, service and goods. This opens up the possibilities for economic activities in remote islands and supports the creation of more business enterprises.

An increased number of enterprises and increased investments contribute to improving employment and GDP.

Greater workforce participation creates higher tax revenue and lowers welfare consumption. The benefits of an active population dissipate into mental health, social harmony, and cultural participation. A stronger economy and connected citizens creates greater economic contributions.

According to a study by CESifo Working Paper No. 2861 on a panel of OECD countries, impacts of broadband investment and economic growth were investigated. The results show a strong relationship between broadband and economic growth.

Statistics show after a country has introduced broadband, GDP per capita is 2.7 to 3.9 percent higher on average than before its introduction. In terms of subsequent diffusion, an increase in the broadband penetration rate by 10 percentage points raises annual growth in per-capita GDP by 0.9 to 1.5 percentage points (Czernich.V, Falck.O, Tbias. K, Ludger. W, Dec.2009).

Small island economies are no different in this regard. This holds true especially if regional co-operation leads to the bounding together of larger ‘open’ economic trading zones. Using broadband, small island communities can collaborate with each other to create network-oriented supply chains and value chains for manufacturing and trading good and services. They can also collaborate to optimize the prices and inbound logistics of goods and services needed.


Broadband acts as an enabler of trade through greater business interactions and promotion. Small enterprises can benefit from shared international business experience and relevant market data in a variety of industries.

New industries of eco-tourism, climate science research and advanced small-component manufacturing could also develop from broadband-connected remote island communities. This connectivity enables the knowledge-sharing and the logistics network to be assembled and operated.

These are some of the reasons why it is a priority to invest in affordable broadband infrastructure, systems development and skills capacity development across the Pacific Islands communities – to Connect The Blue Continent.


Authors: Chris Sampson, Bahar Forghani, Elizabeth Hart

Please contact us via our FaceBook page – and Like the page to support us – thanks !