The GSM Association (GSMA) launched The Mobile Economy Pacific Islands 2019 report at the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA) 23rd AGM and annual conference which underscores the potential of mobile technology in the Pacific region. GSMA provided that Pacific Islands are on the verge of a digital revolution which would be espoused by the cooperation between the government and the mobile ecosystem. “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,” noted GSMA Director General Mats Granryd. The report highlights how financial inclusion was improved since 2008 through the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) and how the launch of 4G connections in 2018 would boost mobile broadband and hence digital transformation. Yet, there are some infrastructure challenges in many countries, such as insufficient infrastructure, switchover process, and scarcity of international internet bandwidth. Finally, the report provides that for Pacific Islands to unlock the full potential of mobile, they need to improve digital divide, enhance access to sufficient spectrum for better coverage and capacity, and provide affordable and high-quality mobile services.
The need for people to gain access to ICT resources and narrow the digital divide is crucial, and is especially relevant now in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to understand how access to the Internet affects the level of economic and social development in a country.
Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).
The digital divide can be defined as a rift between those who, for technical, political, social, or economic reasons, have access and capabilities to use ICT/Internet, and those who do not. Various views have been put forward about the size and relevance of the digital divide.