Business, not philanthropy, brought telecommunications to rural Ni-Vanuatu. Digicel Vanuatu launched in June 2008 and has quickly become the nation's most popular mobile phone network. The incumbent Telecom Vanuatu (TVL) is now trying to catch-up, building new towers on the outer islands while their fixed line infrastructure is fast becoming redundant. Only TORBA province, the last place in Vanuatu, was without mobile communications in April 2009.
Before Digicel, mobiles were expensive and TVL was under no pressure to invest and expand networks away from the main population centres. Why invest in towers for a few scattered villages? Because in the towns are large numbers of Ni-Vanuatu with family on the outer islands. By connecting the towns to the villages and making mobile phones affordable for everyone, Digicel developed a large customer base of urban Ni-Vanuatu (see table below).
Calculation of urban Ni-Vanuatu population and number of potential Digicel users.
Data source: CIA (2009, September 30) The World Factbook -Vanuatu.
|Vanuatu human population
||Median age 24 years.
| Other than Ni-Vanuatu at 1.50%
|Urban population at 25%
|Urban Ni-Vanuatu 15-64 years at 65.3%
||Potential Digicel users.
Digicel has been the most important development in Vanuatu in recent years. It is unusual because it is commercial and not another donor funded project. Sure, Digicel credits cost Vatu and are used up quickly but we should not patronize the new mobile phone users. They are learning how to best use the technology.