Digital islands: how the Pacific's ICT revolution is transforming the region

21 November 2012

This report argues that the Pacific Islands region is in the midst of an information and communications technology  revolution that could have profound implications, particularly for democratic governance and the region’s development.

Approximately 60 per cent of Pacific Islanders now have access to a mobile phone and this figure continues to climb. Mobile Internet is leapfrogging obvious barriers to Internet access such as geographical remoteness, financial cost and availability. A boom in mobile phone use has facilitated the rise of social media in the Pacific.

This Lowy Institute Analysis describes some of the early impacts of the region’s information and communications technology (ICT) revolution. In particular, the combination of these powerful digital tools has given Pacific Islanders greater opportunity to participate in national discourse, form online networks and coordinate public protest. They are also providing Pacific Islanders with a means to challenge some of the ways in which they are governed, improving transparency and accountability. This ICT revolution also has great implications for the region’s development, although so far these new tools have been underutilised in this sphere. Pacific Island governments, the private sector and international donors could make far better use of the region’s ICT revolution, in particular, supporting more effective resource allocation and greater service delivery, by using digital tools such as mobile applications and crowdsourcing.

Key findings:

  • Digital technologies are increasingly being used in the Pacific Islands to harness, influence and project political and social change.
  • A ‘digital generation’ is emerging in the Pacific Islands region. Led by bloggers, digital entrepreneurs and social media groups in Papua New Guinea, this group is playing an increasingly influential role in public debate.
  • The Australian Government, as the Pacific Islands’ largest trading partner and aid donor, is well placed to make better use of ICT tools to help the region achieve its development goals.

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