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Cook Islands Examines Merits Of South Pacific Information Superhighway

by Mary Swire, Tax-News.com, Hong Kong

02 October 2007


The Cook Islands government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with API, the New Caledonia based company representing the South Pacific Information Network (SPIN), to conduct a country specific assessment of the proposed optical fiber undersea cable.

The proposed project has two components, the first an east-bound route, known as SPIN-East, going from New Caledonia to French Polynesia via Wallis & Futuna, which could provide links to Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga Niue and the Cook Islands. The other is the west-bound route (SPIN-West) from New Caledonia linking Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, and would connect to the existing Port Moresby - Cairns cable and the soon to be implemented Noumea - Sydney and Tahiti - Honolulu cables for international access.

The objectives of SPIN-East are not only to connect the Pacific Islands but also to contribute to ICT development in the region, secure New Caledonia and French Polynesia traffic, build a new trans-Pacific route, and offer back-up capacities to US and Australian operators.

The Cook Islands government hopes that involvement in a network such as SPIN will enhance economic growth by providing employment opportunities with regard to remote working, on-line catalogues, e-commerce and the establishment of new multimedia and audiovisual industries, while also developing prospects for e-learning, e-administration, tele-health and so forth.

Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Dr. Jimmie Rogers, has told the Cook Islands cabinet that this project provided a chance for the Cook Islands and the rest of the Pacific to tap into the development opportunities that can be gained thorough ICT. He also concurred with the view of Greg Urwin, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), that "the lack of telecommunications infrastructure in the region is a serious impediment to development and improvement and quality of life of Pacific Islanders".

The proposed SPIN project is aligned to the Pacific Digital Strategy and the Pacific Plan endorsed by Pacific Leaders.

According to Liz Koteka of the Policy and Planning Division of the Office of the Prime Minister, the recent signing does not commit the Cook Islands to the proposed project but allows API to come in for further assessment, dialogue and negotiations with Government and other agencies. She added that: “Government will only commit to the project when all the required information and the possible options have been analyzed and assessed to ensure that the decision that Government will make would be to the benefit of the Cook Islands."

Consultations with API could start as early as this month, according to Rogers.

Countries which have agreed for consultations to proceed with API so far are: New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna, American Samoa, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining offshore e-commerce and online gaming is available in the Lowtax Library at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/subs_reports.asp and a description of the report can be seen at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/description_report6.asp

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