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Editorial: Cheaper data would boost economy

Wednesday January 08, 2020 Written by Published in Editorials
Aitutaki youngsters brings the Manatua undersea fibre cable ashore in Cook Islands.    TOKERAU JIM 20010717 Aitutaki youngsters brings the Manatua undersea fibre cable ashore in Cook Islands. TOKERAU JIM 20010717

OPINION: I was meeting someone at Rarotonga airport, when I encountered a frustrated American tourist having a bit of a nightmare. Her bank had got the time zones confused (or some such) and hadn’t yet transferred her money orders, so she had no spending cash.

Worse, she was on the phone to them trying to sort it out – with no idea how much that international call might cost her on call roaming.

I warned her about the calling costs and offered her a lift to her accommodation, where she might get some support dealing with her bank. She was too stressed, though, to think about anything other than getting past the hold music.

So I gave her a floral ei, and wished her luck.

The frustration of dealing with overseas banks will never change – but there is hope, at least, that the cost of Cook Islands calls and data may diminish this year.

Today, we report that local fibre infrastructure company Avaroa Cable Ltd is promising to supply data to telco Bluesky and any other local providers cheaper; Bluesky, in turn, promises to pass on savings to consumers.

We should hold them to their promises. The growth of Cook Islands as a newly “developed” 21st century nation depends on them keeping their word.

That is because tourism is constrained by data costs; how many tourists have we seen furrowing their brows as they purchase their visitor SIM card at the airport; or complaining of blowing their data caps? 

Those of us who live here know to turn off background refreshes and mobile data on our phone apps; to ration our home broadband use for the first three weeks of every month – but the costs come as a shock to visitors.

So too, the data speed and costs constrain the Cook Islands IT industry. And it shows. To be blunt, some of the country’s online services and marketing look like they are still stuck in last century.

Moreover, there is real potential for smart Cook Islanders to return home and set up their contracting businesses here, or do their jobs for overseas corporates – if they can work remotely. Why wouldn’t you?

That would be an enormous shot in the arm for the local economy – far more so than selling pricey SIM cards to tourists arriving at the airport.

  • Jonathan Milne

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1 comment

  • Comment Link Josh Wednesday, 08 January 2020 11:41 posted by Josh

    100% agree. We would move there in a heart beat if the internet was good. Not saying cheap, just good. I don't expect to get NZ or Aus costs for data, at say $40/month unlimited, but something close to this will make tourists, locals and business's prosper greatly.