Communications Threatens The Remote Tropical Islands Of Vanuatu.

By: Wendy Stenberg-tendys Dr.

Hollywood DVDs and TV give one portrayal ofthe wider world communities. If this is your only connection to that world,imagine the impact on knowledge levels when access to a mobile phone is provided.Your views of life on the screen and your immediate neighborhood will bechanged forever.

In the archipelago of Vanuatu,with its 83 tropical islands spread over a distance of 700 plus kilometres,communication has not always been easy, because of the distances between remotecommunities.

Now the first ever, large new shinybillboards tower high above the heads of the people, who for the most part movearound on foot only.? Riding in cars,flying in planes or moving in trains, is beyond their meagre means of income.

The oral history of Vanuatu,has been passed down from generation to generation. ?Song, dance, carving and sand drawing wereused to pass down the ancient traditions of important family and communitytales, expertise and genealogy.

In the past the weather has played animportant role in the intermingling of ideas between the islands. Suitableconditions were needed for the outrigger canoes to make the deep oceancrossings over the horizon to distant islands. Until now, modern telecommunications havenot come to these remote islands.

These technologies have proved difficultand expensive to install in the outer regions. Consequently the Vanuatugovernment focussed its systems on the main island of Efate.Only random villages on the outer islands were provided with a single solarpowered telephone. The President of Torba Provincial Council has to go fromSola to Gaua to make just one telephone call to the capital, Port Vila.

The isolation on these islands has bred astrong identification with the islands, especially by the men. A man willintroduce himself according to his home island – ‘Man Ambrym’, ‘Man Gaua’, ‘ManPentecost’. Women too will give a family history according to birthplace “Mymother is from Pentecost and my father’s family is from Sola".

In the 21st century the youngpeople are more dispersed across the islands and communications with familymembers is limited and difficult. In many parts of Vanuatu‘no-cash’ economies exist. Putting together the cash to purchase the phone andthe phone card is difficult. And there is no guarantee that a phone system isavailable.

In 2008, the Vanuatugovernment opened the country to competition in the telecommunicationsindustry. Previously what communications were available, were under the controlof only one company, which led to a very expensive monopoly.

The new player in the telecommunicationfield has turned Vanuatuon its head. Now promising a nation-wide coverage, cheap phones and cheaptop-up schemes, but only with their company. It has always been the dream of the peopleof Torba Provincesince Independence27 years ago that they might get a phone system.

The impact of the new telecommunicationswill change the lives of the Ni-Vanuatu people. For the first time people fromthe width and breadth of Vanuatuwill be able to talk to each other. The impact on communities will, however, beboth positive and negative.

Family communications will be improved andcontacts maintained. Knowledge will be accessed across wide distances. Forexample, the ladies will know what produce to send to market. The centralhospital will be able to provide improved medical support by phone links. Everyone has embraced the new technology,but in particular the young. This technology savvy generation will be able toaccess friends all over the islands.

Demands on families will increase with theneed to find money to top up the phone cards. The mobility of the youth willsee groups gathering at pre-arranged meeting points. The social structure of Vanuatu,already in a state of flux, will be further altered.

One of the challenges for Vanuatuis to utilize the technology for the development of its people. The youth needto get beyond the gimmicks of the technology and realize the educational gainsto be had.

For Vanuatuto move forward in the 21st century, the young need the ability toearn an income and be able to clearly communicate in the business world too. ?

In the remote northern islands of the Torba Province,business men such as Chief Charles Bice, owner of a guest house, is hopeful ofan improved service. “My guests cannot get through to book so they just drop inand this is not good for my business".

Traditionally the Vanuatugovernment’s position on Torba Provinceis that the province is not economically productive. Consequently in late 2007the government admitted that it was unable to provide educational resources andsupport to the remote, northern islands.

On these remote islands, a village schoolcan be a few wooden benches outside a hut at the end of the clearing. There areno chairs so children squat on their haunches. Pages are torn from exercisebooks to be shared for writing practice. Pencils are broken into three. Readingis done by the teacher or the book is passes from child to child as there arenot enough to go around.

Education in Vanuatudoes not reach all children. Education is not free. For many education remainsbeyond the realm of their meagre or no incomes.

The awful consequences of this are:

  • ???????only 55.8% of Vanuatukids will get to grade 6;
  • ???????of those only 18.2% will go to highschool ;
  • ???????26% will never go to school at all.

Rick and Wendy Tendys, the founders of, are raffling Seachange Lodge (a private holiday home,plus 6 luxury holiday apartments) on the Internet, to raise funds fornon-repayable high school education grants for the children of the outerislands of Vanuatu.This is a World First, that will change someone’s life,as well as the lives of these children.

You can be part of this exciting project thatwill help the next generation to keep an informed balance. It is not enough tohave modern gimmicks if you do not have the wider education to go along withit.

Communications
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Communications
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles