Is cheap and faster internet the answer to our social and economic ills?

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BY the time you are reading this, our Prime Minister Hon Ricky Houenipwela, would have well and truly settled down in his hotel suite in Brisbane, He is there to sign the agreement linking Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands with Australia via the fibre optic undersea cable.

As one official put it, the project was “shoved down our throat” by and at the highest political level in Canberra. One doubts it is in our interest.

What makes this project so special that only Prime Ministers are privy to its contents and intention?

Politicians come and go. There is no guarantee it would be honored in perpetuity.

I have particular problems with many aspects of the undersea cable project and its overall intended impact in Solomon Islands and its 650, 000 souls.

My estimate is that only about 12 per cent of the population would have access to this global superhighway.

Take it down to the wire and you will find a large slice of the 12 per cent of the population will have access to this “cheap and faster” internet. They will do so to do nothing but the unmentionables.

This in itself will create further social ills for a nation that is already bursting on its seams with a plethora of crimes that our weak law enforcement regime is unable to adequately deal with.

There are rumours in the diplomatic circles that even the justice system in this country is at the point of collapsing.

Put all these together – a weak police force, a collapsing justice system and the low level of the number of people who will be using this new internet service – and you have on your hands a potential time bomb capable of blowing the nation apart.

And that is one my difficulties with the project. Is it going to improve the lot for the ordinary people who need a job to survive this harsh world of the cash economy?

There are even more serious questions. For example, is it the intention of the proponents and in deed the funder of the project that they are only interested in supporting just 12 per cent of the Solomon Islands’ population?

As it is, the ingredients for the social time bomb I have referred to are already gathering momentum. Take for example, our National Referral Hospital.

It is the nation’s first line of defence against diseases, and yet it does not have even the basic drugs to treat people.

The hospital has the finest trained workmen and women in the field and yet even the present government appears to have completely ignored the demise of this life-saving institution.

Prime Minister Ricky Houenipwela was asked about the sorry state of affairs at the NRH this very question during a recent business breakfast. His response could have come from a Grade six kid.

He reportedly blamed the way the budget was framed. Excuse me, the budget? The budget is framed by a group of people with a leader – that leader is none other than the Prime Minister himself.

It is the question of priority, Sir

It brings me to question the true benefits the so-called cheap and faster internet project would bring the non-working people of Solomon Islands.

As it stands, the project has zero benefits in terms of job creation and even the potential spin-off benefits are rather remote.

What is of urgent consideration is the fact we need to create jobs, not through cheap solar panels that even the World Bank has bought into.

Holy moley, how long are we going to allow foreigners to pull the wool over our eyes?

Job creation can only be done by engaging with those who have the resources to create new trade and investment opportunities in this country.

It is the only way to unleash the reservoir of the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled individuals locked away in rural Solomon Islands.

 

Alfred Sasako

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