- ADB's connectivity investment project is expected to deliver affordable and faster internet in Palau.
- Linking Palau to global broadband internet is expected to improve social services in the island nation.
- $25 million North Pacific Regional Connectivity Investment Project is improving Palau's ICT sector.
Palau relied entirely on satellite links for internet connectivity. But its high cost and limited bandwidth restricted internet penetration in the country.
In 2015, the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Palau joined forces to develop a fiber optic cable system linking the Pacific island nation to an internet cable hub in Guam. The partnership aimed to deliver affordable, accessible and faster internet in Palau.
Officially commissioned in 2017, the $25 million North Pacific Regional Connectivity Investment Project is now helping the island nation improve its delivery of government, health, and education services to its people.
Palau, North Pacific - Palau's remote location led to a slow uptake of its information and communications technology (ICT) sector.
For years, Palau relied on expensive and limited satellite links for internet connection.
"We all know in the Pacific, the main challenge is isolation. They are away from the happenings in the world and it’s always a challenge to bridge that gap. And ICT – it’s like transportation in the previous decades. So, it connects people. It helps countries to move information across other countries. It helps grow their business, develop new opportunities and social services will benefit," observes Sibesh Bhattacharya, ADB's Senior Infrastructure Specialist.
Palau is switching its internet backbone connection from geo-satellite to fiber-optic cable.
Richard Misech, Project Coordinator, Belau Submarine Cable Corporation, shares some project challenges. "Being an isolated island and with limited resources, let alone the access from the outside world and resources on hand, there’s a bit of a challenge to coordinate it all together."
Private sector and development partners worked with the Palau governmetn to ensure smooth project implementation.
"To say that there are processes and bureaucracy that need to be followed would be incorrect. You have to understand how to work with the banks, you have to understand how to work closely with the governments. And I think ADB is doing a wonderful job in bridging between the people that are building the cable and the people who are buying the cable," reveals Paul McCann, Managing Director, Belau Submarine Cable Corporation.
Bringing global broadband to Palau is part of the US $25 million project to improve social services and develop private sector in North Pacific.
Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. shares positive feedback about the connectivity project. "It’s a very important and needed infrastructure... This telecom advancement has been, and will always be, a critical component of our sustainable development. We also celebrate the results of a public-private partnership, how people can come together and solve challenges, and really create the necessary foundations for nations like Palau to continue to grow."
Cable connectivity has improved internet reliability while capacity increased more than ten times.
Marcia Inacio, Technology Specialist in the Ministry of Education, is expecting changes in the way Palauans see education and learning with the improved internet connectivity. "Everything we do within the republic is tied to one thought and that is 'education leads to success.' With the improved connectivity, the possibilities are immense. We can collaborate not only within the region but also outside the region. People in the states who do not see the effect of climate change have a chance now to partner in classrooms in Palau and talk about it."
Better internet connectivity is expected to drive development and improve social services in Palau.
Integration between Palau and other Pacific island nations is also expected to accelerate.