Pacific Islands poised to embrace digital journey

The Pacific Islands are poised to embark its digital transformation journey with support of mobile technology.

This year at the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA) 23rd AGM and annual conference in Fiji on 8-12 April 2019, crucial decisions including ensuring access to sufficient spectrum for better coverage and capacity will be discussed.

“This is an exciting time for the Pacific Islands as it stands on the cusp of a digital revolution and mobile technology will play a pivotal role in this transformation, providing access to life-enhancing services such as health and education and acting as a catalyst for innovation and economic growth,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA. 

“To ensure affordable, high-quality mobile services, collaboration across the mobile ecosystem, is key to unlocking the full potential of mobile and to connect everyone and everything to a better future.”

Operators are already investing to improve LTE network coverage and speeds. 4G connections are set to account for more than half of total connections by 2023, doubling the figure from the end of 2018.

The shift to mobile broadband and 4G also reflects the increasing rates of smartphone adoption. From just 30 percent of connections at the end of 2018, this is forecast to more than double to 65 percent by 2025, helped by declines in smartphone prices and the emergence of new, low-cost smartphone vendors.

There is already a growing number of companies showing the benefits of mobile connectivity. For example, Tupaia has mapped every health facility across six countries in the Pacific region with a free data collection app MediTrak.

To help farmers on Fiji, the PacFarmer App provides access information on government support schemes, commodity prices and weather information, as well as other features.

Still to make the most of mobile connectivity, more work is needed on behalf of regulators and governments. The opportunities as well as challenges are highlighted in a new report published by the GSMA, which represents mobile operators worldwide.

"The Mobile Economy Pacific Islands 2019" report reveals that:

  • Mobile helping to boost financial inclusion: The Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) was launched in 2008 and has funded 44 projects with financial service providers helping more than 2 million Pacific Islanders access formal financial services;
  • The ongoing shift to mobile broadband and digital transformation: at the end of 2018 mobile internet penetration in the region was the lowest of any region in the world at 18 per cent. However, 4G connections in the Pacific Islands are set to account for more than half of total connections by 2023, doubling the figure from the end of 2018 and increasing access to services;
  • Infrastructure challenges: Many countries in the Pacific Islands region face issues around insufficient infrastructure. Several countries are yet to complete the digital switchover process, including Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Solomon Islands; and
  • Unlocking the full potential of mobile: The upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference will be one of the best opportunities for governments and industry to identify a significant amount of harmonized millimetre wave spectrum, which will result in massive economies of scale for 5G in the future.
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