Australia’s Pacific outreach helping to transform the Solomon Islands internet connectivity and provide the opportunity for expanded economic activity.
A ceremony took place in Honiara on Monday 15 July to mark the commencement of the Coral Sea Cable laying process in Solomon Islands.
The cable, manufactured in France, was brought to the Pacific in a specially designed cable laying ship, the Ile de Brehat. The Ile de Brehat begun laying the section of the cable connecting Papua New Guinea and arrived in Honiara on the 10th of July, when it then commence laying the Coral Sea Cable from Honiara to Sydney.
The ship is expected to return to the Solomon Islands in September to lay the Solomon Islands Domestic Network cable.
The Coral Sea Cable System and the Solomon Islands Domestic Network are on track to be ready for service by December 2019.
Improved internet connectivity through the cable has the potential to grow the economy, improve government services, and help transform the way that the people of Solomon Islands connect with the rest of the world. In early February this year, the former Prime Minister, Rick Hou, speaking in Australia , said the fiber optic cable was ‘game changing infrastructure,’’ since the Solomons was wholly reliant on expensive satellite technology to access the internet.
Writing in the ‘Diplomat’ Grant Wyeth commented thatthe undersea cable project is seen as one of Canberra’s more significant displays of regional commitment. The government’s decision to implement the project (it will provide two-thirds of the costs) came after Australia’s security agencies warned of the risks associated with allowing a Chinese firm to provide a fiber optic cable to the Solomon Islands.
Mr. Wyeth went on to say, “Due to the geographic isolation of the Pacific Island states, with their small populations often dispersed over numerous islands and vast swaths of ocean, the delivery of essential services can be difficult and expensive for their governments to provide. This makes any outside assistance welcomed by Pacific leaders.”
“Key to Australia’s Pacific step-up is recognition of the infrastructure deficit that exists in the Pacific and a serious commitment to work with Pacific leaders to do something about it.”
“Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper stated that it will “continue to seek to be the principal security partner for Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Pacific Island countries.” However, this understanding of security should not just be one of dissuading other powers from the region, , but also coincide with the expanding of Australia’s aid program objectives to creating positive health and educational outcomes, as well as promoting economic growth and a reduction in poverty. In this regard the Coral Sea Cable System is a positive step towards this aim.”
Recent research conducted by the World Bank estimates that access to highly quality internet connectivity in the Pacific region has the potential to create an additional $5 billion in economic activity and create an additional 300,000 jobs by 2040
“For the Coral Sea Cable System to hope to achieve and then further expand on these outcomes, it will need to coordinate with the next major project on Canberra’s development radar; the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership. At present only 13 percent of PNG’s population of 8.2 million is connected to the country’s electricity grid, limiting the transformative potential of the Coral Sea Cable System when it is connected to Port Moresby. The partnership signed by PNG, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States at the APEC summit in November seeks to boost that percentage to 70 percent by 2030.”
“The recent Chinese activity in the region has pushed Australia into complementing its conventional development assistance programs with these big ticket items that demonstrate a more conspicuous presence. Ultimately this competition will be positive for the region as long as projects like the Coral Sea Cable System are delivered with both quality and local agency in mind, and Australia’s geostrategic aims come naturally as a consequence of increased Pacific Island capabilities.”
One is appreciative of Australia’s help to improve the internet connectivity in the Solomon Islands with the laying of the Coral Sea Cable System and hope the outcome will lead to greater economic opportunities and the creation of jobs for the many still unemployed.