The Coming Change

The expansion of Internet use is not likely to follow the rocket-like trajectory of mobile services, but it will hit quickly and run deep. Too deep for some, I fear. Having lived on the bleeding and the trailing edge of technology (sometimes both at once), I find the contrast between the two is enough to cause a kind of cognitive whiplash.

Heaven alone knows what will happen when it reaches the village.

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Independent newspaper.]

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”Leo Tolstoy

On Wednesday this week at a quiet ceremony in Chantilly’s Resort, Minister Rialuth Serge Vohor presented six organisations with telecommunications operator licenses. His action marked the beginning of a new chapter in Vanuatu’s integration into the wider technological world.

The Minister’s speech touched on many aspects of the technical and social challenge ahead of us, but its illuminating principle was his lifelong conviction that Vanuatu should control its own destiny. Acknowledging and applauding the invaluable assistance provided by numerous donor and commercial partners from overseas, he nonetheless displayed great satisfaction at seeing local operations moving into the spotlight.

There was an air of quiet excitement in the room as, after patient months of waiting, representatives from the six groups, along with Digicel Vanuatu CEO Tanya Menzies, strode to the front of the room to accept the newly signed documents.

At the risk of sounding like a giddy shoolchild, I wonder if everyone realises just how fundamentally this moment is going to affect our generation and the next.

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What Lies Ahead?

Available evidence seems to point to an upcoming spike in activity among new and existing Internet service providers as they attempt to establish a sustainable long-term position in the nascent ISP market. All eyes are going to be on the numbers, and the numbers will be in the household market. I expect to see a rather boisterous, slightly confused, slightly messy marketing and advertising blitz as a few new faces join our now-familiar cast of communications characters in a bid to be first in the hearts of Vanuatu consumers.

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

Recently we’ve seen a bit of a lull in activity (or at least excitement) in the Vanuatu telecommunications sector. Customers are becoming a little blasé about choice in the mobile market. The mobile telephone incumbents have more or less established their positions, with TVL making real efforts to smoothe its complexion and Digicel allowing the first small warts to peep through its make-up.

The post-election transition of power slowed the policy process down some, and movements at the executive level meant that some of the local businesses needed a bit of a breather as well.

So let’s take this opportunity to do a little crystal ball gazing. What can businesses and Internet users generally expect in the coming months?

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License to Bill

Hidden inside the legalese contained in the government of Vanuatu’s draft telecommunications licensign policy are important questions concerning Internet access in the islands and the need to ensure that the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and access to information are protected.

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

The next phase of the government’s telecommunications strategy is under way.

A little over a week ago, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities began a public consultation process designed to gather feedback on the next set of telecommunications licenses, which should be available in the coming months.

Copies of the draft licensing policy are available at the Ministry offices, or you can get them courtesy of the Vanuatu IT Users Society at

This kind of thing is tedious, detailed and boring for virtually everyone concerned. It’s also a critical step in Vanuatu’s development. Hidden inside the legalese are important questions concerning Internet access in the islands and the need to ensure that the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and access to information are protected.

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