FEATURE STORY June 11, 2018

Micro Connections: Connecting the Federated States of Micronesia

World Bank Group


Story Highlights

  • Internet connections across the Federated States of Micronesia rely on satellite-based connections, which are slow and unreliable, even during clear weather.
  • The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project aims to connect the remaining three unconnected states of the Federated States of Micronesia to high-speed broadband by the end of 2019.
  • It is the largest information, communications & technology project the World Bank has funded in the Pacific Islands, and involves four countries working together.

Chuuk, June 8, 2018 – Internet connections across the Federated States of Micronesia are, by most international standards, incredibly slow. The island state currently relies on satellite-based connections, which are slow and unreliable, even during clear weather.

Despite this, Charity Irons, a manager at the Level 5 Hotel, one of the largest on Chuuk, remains stoically positive.

“The current internet connection here is OK,” says Charity. “A lot of clientele come in and they depend a lot on the internet, and I would really appreciate a better connection. I think it would be better for Chuuk itself, and for a lot of the other companies.”

Mathew Alvien, a waiter at the hotel, has big goals to get a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. However, the country’s dispersed island geography combined with an unreliable internet, make remote study a big challenge – even to submit assignments.

“You’ve got to get it done and submitted on time,” explains Mathew. “Yet, right now, our internet is really slow it interferes with what we’re trying to do; getting our degrees.”


"Right now, our internet is really slow it interferes with what we’re trying to do; getting our degrees."
Mathew Alvien

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Jessica Herry, 26, a 4th grade teacher of Sekere Primary School, helping her student Avyanne, 10, to use the internet during class, in Sekere village, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia  (Vlad Sokhin / World Bank).

 

Vlad Sokhin / World Bank


Faster internet coming soon

Fortunately for Charity, Mathew and thousands others across the islands of Yap, Chuuk and Kosrae, better connectivity is on its way.

The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project is the World Bank’s most significant infrastructure investment in the Pacific Islands over the past decade. Projects in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji are either finished or close to completion, and have delivered fiber-optic connections to tens of thousands across each country.

These major projects require years of planning, commitment and hard work of many within the government, and the impacts have been significant. Improvements in internet speed and dramatic price reductions have made significant improvements in education, health, business, and governance, with sectors including tourism and agriculture seeing major economic benefits.

The Federated States of Micronesia Connectivity Project will first connect Chuuk and Yap, and Yap to a cable to the neighboring nation of Palau. The second phase of the project – which includes the republics of Nauru and Kiribati, will connect to Kosrae, with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It is planned that by the end of 2019, all the states of the Federated States of Micronesia will be connected, not only globally to the world but also have fast connectivity within its domestic borders.

To ensure the opportunities created by the cables can come to fruition, the government of the Federated States of Micronesia has also been working on substantial regulatory reforms to open the market to competition and promote new private sector investment.

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PJ, 10, a fourth grade student of Sekere Primary School, Pohnpei, in Federated States of Micronesia. PJ’s generation can look forward to considerably better internet connectivity (Vlad Sokhin / World Bank)
 


Unique challenges to connect Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia is a group of more than 600 islands split between four states, dispersed over more than 2,600,000 square kilometers (1,000,000 square miles) of the Pacific Ocean. With that extraordinary distance, comes a significant logistical challenge.

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The Federated States of Micronesia is a group of more than 600 islands split between four states, dispersed over more than 2,600,000 square kilometers (1,000,000 square miles) of the Pacific Ocean.

World Bank Senior Counsel for Digital Development James Neumann says the project is, even by Pacific Islands standards, particularly logistically challenging.

“The logistical and economic challenges of delivering this project are very tough,” says James. “Chuuk lagoon, in particular, has more than 50 shipwrecks and numerous aircraft of global cultural significance from World War II. It means that the project needs to be delivered with absolute care and protection of this unique environment.”

Yet despite the challenges, improved speeds can’t come fast enough for many Micronesians. When the project is completed, the Federated States of Micronesia is expected to have internet access speeds comparable to significantly less remote countries, delivering huge changes for all Micronesians.

“I wouldn’t need to go to Pohnpei and go to school. If the internet runs fine here, just stay here and go to school online,” says hopeful student, Mathew Alvien. “I want to go back to school in the future and get my Master’s degree, and possibly come back and help out with the development of our islands.”

Hotel Manager Charity Irons adds that improved connectivity also has inbound benefits, for the world to see and better connect with the Federated States of Micronesia.

“For those who don’t live in Chuuk, to know better what’s going on here, there would be a lot more options if they have better internet connection,” said Charity.

Funding for the project comes from a World Bank grant, through the International Development Association, of approximately US$63.5 million to the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia.


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