Digital connectivity to boost educational opportunities in the Solomon Islands

| October 10, 2018

Current and emerging leaders throughout the Pacific and Australia attended the Pacific Connect Workshop in Honiara, Solomon Islands on 19-20 September. Participants were invited to discuss how better digital connectivity, enabled by a new submarine cable, can transform the lives of Solomon Islanders and suggest related topics that the future Pacific Connect Dialogue in Honiara will focus upon.

The change brought about by the submarine cable will be positive but also challenging, and the Solomon Islands will never be the same as it looks to take advantage of digital opportunities facilitated by enhanced connectivity. Current internet services are slow and expensive, which discourages foreign investment, however the new cable will open the Solomon Islands to the rest of the world. The workshop participants highlighted that many potential group projects can arise from a Pacific Connect dialogue, including projects that focus on digital means to improved education, financial services, tourism and government.

The workshop participants’ contributions highlighted that education offers a point of focus as the Solomons has a young demographic. It was noted that most Australian children are raised today as ‘digitally literate’ through early and constant exposure to electronic devices in addition to an effective education program. Additional technology training to Solomon Islands youth will enable the best use of tomorrow’s technology.

After education was confirmed as the main priority for the future Pacific Connect Dialogue to be held in Honiara later this year, the participants agreed that financial services can be positively impacted with the introduction of break-through technologies. Solomon Islanders are in a unique position where they may now use bitcoin and mobile money as well as cash and traditional shell tokens. Currently, there is a limited amount of branch banking available in the country and access to the internet will create a huge potential for mobile money services to increase digital inclusion. Despite the vast opportunities that arise from the introduction of the submarine cable, participants agreed that the Dialogue and any future projects arising from it must take proper safeguards into account throughout the planning and implementation process.

Having considered the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of issues to consider in the first session, participants in the second session were required to contraction on the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of implementation. This workshop as focused on how participants could make their own contribution to solutions with the help of ICDP and Pacific Connect. Participants were encouraged to think ‘outside the box’ and came up with unique project reference proposals that can aid Solomon Islands education, tourism, financial services and government projects.

Ultimately, the workshop was an enormous success, with participants determining that the future Pacific Connect dialogue will focus on digitally empowered education and training from kindergarten to high school. It is envisaged that participant insights from this future dialogue can be utilised elsewhere throughout the Pacific.

Thanks to participant and expert contributions, the Honiara Pacific Connect Dialogue, to be held on 22-23 November 2018 under a theme of ‘Australia-Pacific Connections for a Digital Future’, will discuss how improved digital connectivity will enable Solomon Islanders with a greater choice of educational opportunities.

Thank you ICDP and all the participants for a successful workshop.

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Benjamin Blackshaw

Benjamin Blackshaw is an editorial and research assistant for the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships. Currently studying a Bachelor of Global Studies and a Diploma in Languages at the University of Technology, Sydney, he hopes to pursue a career in international development.