[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]
At a public meeting recently held in Port Vila, Digicel Pacific General Counsel David Dillon estimated that Digicel and TVL combined have about 100,000 active mobile subscriptions in Vanuatu. If that number is correct – and I believe it is – it means that the number of subscriptions has increased by a stunning 400% in less than a year.
100,000. Let’s think about that for a second.
In the big cities of the world, selling 80,000 new subscriptions is a modest achievement. But here in Vanuatu, simply finding that many is a herculean feat. Extrapolating from the 2001 census numbers, we can estimate that there are roughly 55,000 people living in Port Vila and Santo today. Pick any reasonable percentage of people actually using mobile phone services, and it quickly becomes evident that reaching the reported subscription level requires pretty significant penetration into places that had never had mobile services before.
Digicel, TVL and the government of Vanuatu have achieved a truly remarkable thing. This is nothing short of a communications revolution.
Nobody doubts that the effect of opening the telecoms market is a fundamental transformation in the way Vanuatu society interacts. But it’s difficult to characterise the exact nature and scope of the impact.
It would be nice to quote statistical chapter and verse, but we don’t have enough publicly available information to do so.