So, what are you doing?

I read about cellphones mostly.

Cell phones. I have one. You probably do too. Mobile telephony is the worlds most pervasive technology. More than half the population of the entire world has one. Even though that statistic is slightly skewed it's still a glaring number that indicates that we are living in the digital age. Telecommunications. Why study it? So people can communicate? So what? So my aunty Peka in the village can more easily place collect calls to her kids in South Auckland for money? Big deal.

What's the big deal with Telecommunications?

Yes, it's as simple as allowing people to talk to each other, but then of course, it's not. Think of a university. A workplace, a government, any organisation. Can the university function for one day without it's phones, without email, without it's billing systems, library catalogue, without internet? The Bus, Honolulu International Airport, Wall Street, this University. We all operate on the premise that we can talk to others. It's fundamental to everything that we do. We take for granted the fact that we can communicate so easily that too often, we belittle it's importance in our modern day society. And it's never as simple as putting in place a system. Building a network. Updating software, plugging in a wire. Telecom systems need to be designed so that users feel like it's second nature. There needs to be innovative technology constantly being developed that are appropriate to what people want, even if they don't know they want it yet. There needs to be fair pricing and profitable industry and a regulatory environment that encourages growth but protects consumer/ local interests. It's all an intricate balance that nobody ever really gets perfectly right.

So why study cellphones, when really, all that does - is give Peka another way to faikakala and more bills for her sons in Otara to pay, right? Well right and wrong. Peka is the untapped market for a growing industry in the Pacific. Peka, is proof that Samoans aren't so resistant to technology and change after all. Peka is Samoa participating in the global economy.

It's arguable but the point is though - Yea. It's kind of a big deal.

Weeks ago, I was in a talk being given by a passionate speaker about some of the harrowing inequalities in Micronesia as a result of military occupation. I had an epiphany in that lecture theater when the speaker told of stunted economic growth in the Micronesias being an effect of imported western models of economic development that don't work in the islands. In that moment, I clicked. That's what I'm doing.

Much of the mobile phone growth in Europe, the Americas and Asia have been greatly accorded to the introduction of competition in their technology markets (among other factors). The idea is that competition evens the playing field. Lower barriers to entry in the market theoretically brings about improved service, better pricing and more choice for the customer. Can Competition fail? Certainly. When somewhere in the mix, someone isn't competing fairly. And as humans, we're good at that. And also, what of countries that are so small, there aren't enough customers to sustain more than one provider? So, as developing countries such as Samoa and other Pacific nations are swiftly rolling out wireless networks (providing service to Peka and her friends in the womens committee) so brings the question of regulation of those networks and services. Most island countries have always had one single provider that offered basic telecommunications services, usually for the low low price of a limb or a soul. Now with new services and new providers - we are also introducing competition. Now the question I ask is - are we doing it because - we've assessed our needs and it's appropriate and sustainable for us economically. Or are we doing it because the big countries did it?

Is competition in mobile phone markets in Samoa an imported western model of economic development that will not work in the islands?

And if it is - then how to make it work for us in the long run. And if it isn't - then how to change it so that Peka can still call her sons for money.

My inkling is that it has as much to do with how you adopt the model as it does to do with the model you choose - if that makes sense. I really don't know. What I do know is that it's a question worth asking. It's a critical piece of the puzzle for Samoa's continued sustainable economic growth.

So, that's what I'm doing. I'm asking. For all the aunty Pekas.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Well, what Im doing, is no where near as deep as what your doing. :P .. loved the insight, and the thinking around it...my brain is in NO condition to be bullied into that kind of thinkin yet! lol..light reading will do thanx!so me? im taking a break from studying for me last exam! wuhoo.. Thanx for openin up the anonymous comments for the big fans loyke moiii :) :) ... so, this be an excerpt from "roxanne?" lol.. ua lava ia gei kala.. sooga procrastinate a i fea?? lol.. luv n hugs.. xo :)
Fotu said…
lol. this is me thinking out loud with roxanne. tryna figure it all out still. faaaar from finished. bleh. as for u... good luck with exams!!! you'll do great :) and of course it makes that beer go down so much better... good to hear from u love. :)
reesa said…
suga, makua'i deep gei magaku. makes me 'not' look forward to studying again. either way...very interesting and keep em posts coming cause you know how i have nothing better to do???....hehehe, laters girl.
Fotu said…
hoye reesa! long chimes! hope alls well with you and the famaree. posts will continue as long as i am studying "really hard" LoL! :)