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Reading the Fiji Times last week, I came across an article which included the following from a local Westpac Bank employee:

Fiji is at the doorstep of e-commerce. The bank understands that this means changes in the way that we currently do business in Fiji and Westpac is ready to take this journey with our customers

But, if the technology entrepreneurs and consumers of Fiji have largely been left out of trends like e-commerce that have swept across more developed economies over the past 15 years, then they are not alone.

According to another article in the Economic Times, India has an estimated 35 million Small and Medium-scale Enterprises, out of which only about 200,000 have an online presence through domains, sub-domains and blogs.

These businesses are squarely in the sights of Google, which is keen to help all these enterprises set up shopfronts online. As they cater to this new market, they will make discoveries and innovations that will only lower the cost of doing business online–something that will benefit Pacific Islanders trying to set up an online presence for their ventures.

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Something that we all are suspecting of becoming reality. An article from the New York Times discusses how government subsidies offer low-cost PCs for use in poor families:

Professor Malamud and his collaborator, Cristian Pop-Eleches, an assistant professor of economics at Columbia University, did their field work in Romania in 2009, where the government invited low-income families to apply for vouchers worth 200 euros (then about $300) that could be used for buying a home computer.


For children, Internet usage in unsupervised environments raises serious questions:

In a draft of an article that the Quarterly Journal of Economics will publish early next year, the professors report finding “strong evidence that children in households who won a voucher received significantly lower school grades in math, English and Romanian.” The principal positive effect on the students was improved computer skills.


This site has been tirelessly advocating cheap and universal access. Moreover, this site operates with the view that the citizens of Fiji are being under-served by how the telecoms industry is currently structured. A restructuring of this sector is dramatically in order.

Fostering competition at the retail level should be of utmost priority. In order to accomplish this target, it must be realized that clear and transparent pricing are required at all levels, including wholesale.

To increase the broadband penetration rate in Fiji, broadband must be clearly meant to mean both wireline and wireless access. Presently, infrastructure exists in a very narrow corridor.

Investment in the adequate infrastructure to serve all of Fiji becomes a shared responsibility. Ownership and operation of the infrastructure must be firewalled from retail competition. Either industry consortium or the Govt. has to take lead with a plan to get an infrastructure in place that can serve our people.

The infrastructure must be open to allow for piggybacking of emergency services. It is time for a sensible outline of targets to establish where our infrastructure should be within a few years.

Along with that comes increasing the regulatory capacity of authorities:

CONSULTATIONS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF A NATIONAL BROADBAND POLICY

14 July 2010, Holiday Inn Suva

The Government of Fiji wishes to develop a broadband policy adopting international best practice with, amongst other things, the following objectives:

I.  Promotion of broadband and penetration across geographic barriers in Fiji;

II.Identification of particular means to enhance access to Internet in rural areas hence bridge the digital divide;

III. Identification of barriers to broadband access both in urban and rural areas and the means to overcome these barriers with particular emphasis on:

a)      Service costs;

b)      Spectrum policy;

c)      Infrastructure sharing; and

d)     Universal Service Funds

IV.Broadband as a mean of enhancing social development;

V.  Promotion of long term interests of end users;

VI.Efficiency and international competitiveness;

VII. Rapid expansion of reliable and affordable broadband services on an equitable basis, with particular improvement in rural areas;

VIII. Promotion of efficient investment and innovation in broadband networks and services;

IX.Fair competition with all telecommunications service providers and allowing market forces to operate;

X.  Provision and promotion of appropriate consumer protection and other safeguards in relation to broadband services where market forces are insufficient; and,

XI.Provision and promotion of environmental sustainability.

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