BY DESMOND RAHE
INFRASTRUCTURE is economically vital in any society, and Solomon Islands infrastructure plays a major role in determining its long-term economic and social path.
However, the country’s infrastructure gap is enormous, but there is an opportunity previously given by the Government of Australia to help fund an undersea communications cable project in the Solomon Islands.
The project is a milestone opportunity for the country, and especially to increase its infrastructure development in the telecommunication sector. Thus, such high-quality infrastructure development could deliver an essential role in boosting economic growth in the Solomon Islands.
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, who had recently attended a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the cable landing station at Lengakiki in Honiara described the project as a tangible symbol of Australia’s ongoing commitment to the Pacific.
“Investments like this cable and the Tina River Hydro Project which Australia is also supporting will be game-changing for the economic development of Solomon Islands.
“To these investments have the potential to significantly reduce Internet and electricity cost and improve connectivity in the Solomon Islands.
“A well planned and high-quality infrastructure could boost sustainable economic growth,” Payne said.
Marise Payne said that according to the World Bank improved Internet access and connectivity in the Pacific could by 2040; translate into more than the US $5 billion of additional GDP and close to 300,000 additional jobs.
“The Coral Sea Cable would supply a capacity approximately 30,000 times the current demand.
“This will encourage digital entrepreneurship and opened up global e-commerce opportunities for tourism, agriculture and fisheries industries,” Payne said.
Minister Payne said that September last year they launched a pilot of the Australian Solomon island technology for department challenge to improve education services and skills development in Solomon Island.
“This cable will also enable the Solomon Islands Government to digitize services, making them more effective and efficient”
“This means more accessible and affordable education and healthcare services, especially for those living in remote areas,” Payne said.
She said that they are working together with the government and the World Bank to maximize the benefits and reduce the risks of the flagship project.
“The Coral Sea Cable System is a critical infrastructure project for the Solomon Islands and a high priority for Australia.
“I want to thank the Solomon Islands Government and Solomon island submarine cable company for the work you have undertaken to date to make sure the project is on track,” Payne said.
Payne now looks forward to the completion of the project, as it will take another milestone in the close relationship between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Solomon Islands’ caretaker Prime Minister Rick Hou said the “game-changing infrastructure” would be transformative for the country as a whole.
The submarine cable is being manufactured in France and Vocus Communications will begin installation in June with the cable scheduled to be ready for service in December.
Australia will invest over $US144 million in a 4700-kilometer long fiber optic, submarine cable system connecting Sydney, Port Moresby, and Honiara as well as in the construction of Solomon Islands’ domestic network.
The project also includes a 730 km submarine cable system connecting Honiara to Auki (Malaita Province), Noro in New Georgia Island (Western Province) and Taro Island (Choiseul Province) and expected to complete by the end of the year.
Australia decided to finance the cable in 2018 after security concerns were raised about Chinese company Huawei, which was initially contracted to build the project.