The Cook Islands is a small, narrow, and open economy, making it susceptible to various types of disruptions. Its size and remote location constrain any economies of scale. To overcome isolation and other hindrances to economic growth, the government prioritized improving their internet connectivity.

ADB and New Zealand government co-financed the US$20 million Avaroa submarine cable project that was completed in 2020 and formed part of the much larger Manatua cable system stretching from French Polynesia through to Samoa. With this initiative, the nation's internet service has now been upgraded to offer higher capacity and improved quality broadband access at a more affordable price, making the internet readily available and economical for the broader population.

The increased availability of an affordable telecommunications, particularly high-speed broadband internet, lowers transactions costs for businesses, governments, and households; creates new business opportunities; and enhances public service delivery through the utilization of information and communication technology.

This initiative promotes regional cooperation and integration through the increased of the frequency and quality of communication between countries in the Pacific region, thereby facilitating an increase in trade in services and creating a significant market for digital goods and services in the region.


Text on screen: The Cook Islands have become a tourist destination in the South Pacific.

But their remoteness limits their access to global markets, hindering businesses from building economies of scale.

A new undersea fiber-optic cable provides a high-speed gateway to the rest of the world.

Rebecca Tavioni, CEO, Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce         

One of the immediate benefits for businesses in the Cook Islands is utilizing the Internet in a way which enables their business to be more productive, make more sales, and reach a greater audience of customers beyond our shores.

Mark Brown, Prime Minister, Cook Islands           

And to have this connectivity and to have this cable is a critical part of our development as a country. As we look to lift the prosperity of our country and our people, but also provide opportunities for them to be able to engage in an increasingly global world.

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The submarine cable plugs the Cook Islands’ 2 most populous islands into the Manatua Cable System, which also connects French Tahiti, Niue and Samoa.

The Asian Development Bank and New Zealand government co-financed the US$20 million Cook Islands’ cable, which was completed in 2020. A new company, Avaroa Cables, Ltd., was established to operate the  line.

Tatiana Burn, Chair, Avaroa Cable, Ltd. Board     

It was so important that ADB were able to recognize the significance of the idea of the Manatua Consortium and specific project here for the Cook Islands, the Avaroa cable. Without ADB, I don't think the project would have gone ahead simply. So it's a crucial part.

Sibesh Bhattacharya, Principal Portfolio Management Specialist, Pacific Department, ADB             

That was the key in a message in this project that if you are small, you have to come up with a regional kind of approach to solve your problem. And it is not only for cable infrastructure, it can be expanded for any other infrastructure or any other kind of development challenges that the small island countries are facing.

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Businesses have welcomed the lower costs and faster speeds compared to the days of pricy, spotty satellite-based coverage.

Phil Henderson, CEO, Vodafone Cook Islands

From an operational perspective. Satellite outages can be a quite a customer impacting event. So having the reliability of submarine cable is quite a quantum step in terms of availability and service provisioning. So that's what the submarine cable has brought to us.

Vaine Arioka, CEO, Bank of Cook Islands

So the speed of the branch connectivity directly to our server has much improved. We have less outages, which then ensures that the service delivery to our end customer is more stable, it's more secure.

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The new cable also connects families spread across distant islands to loved ones working abroad.

Lavinia Tama, Senior Country Officer, Cook Islands Pacific Country Office, ADB    

The project has been very beneficial in the communities in the sense that it's provided a platform to connect families. So, you know, ten years ago you wouldn't see the elderly and teenagers on their phones. Now they also have the ability to communicate with families overseas.

Garth Henderson, Financial Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Management   

Success or growth and development that comes from the cable project is really dependent upon our willingness to embrace it and to take opportunities. And I'm fairly confident that we are a sort of a small country with enough smarts to do better for this economy and this community based upon access. You know, the sort of increased connectivity we have through the cable.