I’d act surprised, but I’m not. That said, I don’t want to want to sound cynical either.
I don’t want to, but it’s hard to be ebullient about a regional information landscape that has only worsened in the last half dozen years, if it’s changed at all.
In 2014, I observed that the developed and developing worlds were actually on diverging paths
where internet access and affordability is concerned. I came to the same conclusion
a couple of years ago, right about the time when Digicel began to look like it wasn’t going to make the running.
It’s a classic example of the Red Queen problem, with developing nations having to run flat out just to avoid losing more ground to the rest of the world. In Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen tells Alice, “you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
Not only does internet cost substantially more in the Pacific islands than it does in Australia or New Zealand, it is several times less affordable, when measured as a percentage of disposable income.
A 2019 price survey by the ITU
states that “The global average price of a mobile data basket of 1.5 GB shrank from 8.4 per cent of GNI [per capita] in 2013 to 3.2 per cent in 2019, a CAGR of almost -15 per cent.”
As the ANU researchers show, that’s not what’s happening in Papua New Guinea. Admittedly, PNG is one of the more disheartening examples in the Pacific. In fact it’s one of the worst in the world. Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga have all seen big improvements in pricing and availability in recent years. It’s reaching the point where people in our cities can be just as glued to their phones as any other urban dweller.
But things are hardly ideal.
Dollar for dollar, the difference between regions for mobile voice and data packages might not seem wildly divergent.