Competition in the telecommunications sector in Solomon Islands has officially arrived. bemobile held its launching ceremony on Aug 31, making it the first competitor to Solomon Telekom (known as “Our Telekom”) effectively ending the previous monopoly. This is the result of the Government’s policy of reforming the telecoms market in Solomon Islands including promoting competition, developing a new legal framework, and setting up a new regulator, the Telecommunications Commission of Solomon Islands (TCSI).
|Hayleen Dusaru is the Moli clinic's registered nurse|
I recently spent almost a week calf deep in mud, shooting around islands, and speaking to beneficiaries and community helpers of the Solomon Islands Rural Development Program (RDP). The trip was an illuminating and uplifting opportunity to get out into rural areas and meet the people that are experiencing the direct benefits of one of the World Bank’s most dynamic projects within Solomon Islands.
Terms like ‘bottom up approach’ and ‘grass roots focus’ are catch-cries that are often heard but not always followed within development projects. However, spending some time in villages that are controlling the funds and direction of infrastructure projects and seeing clear and sometimes astounding benefits from them reinforces the principle that this program is not offering simple lip-service or superficial checklists of community involvement. This is really what community direction of projects looks like. (The Country Manager in Solomon Islands, Edith Bowles, has blogged about this program before, read her views on its agricultural aspects and on the effects of the islands’ remoteness.)
|Residents of Honiara eating dinner during a blackout. Energy in the Solomon Islands can be unreliable and expensive.|
A few nights ago, when I returned to my house on the ridges above Solomon Islands capital Honiara, my alarm clock was flashing 2 p.m. It was obviously wrong, and I have stopped relying on it for the time. Instead it is simply a very noisy gauge of how long it has been since the last power outage.
Unreliable energy supply is perhaps one of the harder things to get used to when living in Honiara. Long overdue maintenance being carried out on the city’s diesel chugging generators causes power outages for 72 hours per month on average. What is worse is that this actually seems efficient compared to rural areas which, due to a lack of spare parts and diesel, can lose power for up to a week.
|"The only way to really speak to someone is to go over to where they are", Primo told me about the state of telecommunications in the country.|
|The expense of operating outboard motor boats means that visits to each community are few and far between.|
In December, the project was just beginning to get going in the provinces. The agriculture workers were looking to the RDP to help restore agriculture extension services. Practically speaking, this means purchasing small boats, outboard motors, fuel, or rehabilitation of offices. At the Ag offices, I was told about the series of dead outboard boat motors lining one wall – including provenance and whatever series of incidents had rendered them inoperable.
|The country is often dismissed as the Pacific's failed state, yet conversations with community members and officials reveal clear visions of what a state can provide in terms of services and a role in community life.|
The Gizo airstrip, reportedly built for a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the 1970s, occupies the entire length of the island of Nusatupe – as a quick look at Google Maps confirms. It is located picturesquely, if ultimately somewhat inconveniently, about two kilometers from the provincial capital island of Gizo. As I was beginning to wonder how I was going to make my way to Gizo, a team from the Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock fortunately pulled up in an outboard motorboat.
In December, just three months after my arrival in the Solomon Islands to serve as the World Bank’s country manager, I chose Western Province for my second trip out of Honiara. One of the main goals in my first year on the job is to visit each of the nine provinces to begin gaining some understanding of this small but complex country.