Fibre Optics

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

Last weekend’s announcement by Minister Rialuth Serge Vohor of an agreement to participate in the SPIN fibre-optic project had been met with cautious optimism from observers. While nobody doubts the desirability of having an undersea cable linking Vanuatu to the rest of the world, some questions remain.

The devil, as always, is in the details.

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Planners and Searchers

Vanuatu’s decision makers can’t sit still forever. At some point, they’ve got to get on with muddling through the reefs and shoals of development planning and sign on to someone’s plan. While it may behoove some to play for time, we will inevitably have to commit to improving our national communications capacity.

Doing so quickly could have quite a salutary effect on the local market. Once our current incumbents get comfortable, it’s not unimaginable that they might want to start consolidating their position, with an eye to keeping upstarts out. The presence of a neutral backbone communications provider with no vested interest in the status quo could enhance competitive market forces significantly.

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

Fifty years ago, Charles E. Lindblom, a professor at Yale University published an essay entitled ‘The Science of “Muddling Through”.’ The paper’s main point was stated briefly and simply: We can’t know everything about anything. So, as long as we’re just muddling through an imperfect world with only imperfect knowledge, we’d just as soon admit it.

At the heart of Lindblom’s rationale is the contention that even if we could know everything, we’d never be able to adequately express the value of competing development priorities. Therefore, we should work within our limitations, reduce the scope of our planning activities and allow competing interests to adjust to each other over time.

In a column marking the 50th anniversary of this seminal essay, Financial Times columnist John Kay remarks that, while contemporary economists may have scoffed at what they considered to be an unscientific and benighted approach to policy and planning, Lindblom’s gradualist approach has largely been vindicated.

Kay’s take on gradualism is filtered through the eyes of a businessman. Noted development economist William Easterly, however, celebrates Lindblom’s work as the only really workable model for developing countries.

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