LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

Next thing you know, St Helena will overtake Cuba in ICT indicators

I’ve always had this fascination with the cellar dwellers. Those days, Myanmar was firmly ensconced in the second to last place, kept from the honor of being the least connected place by St Helena. But the 4,000 plus inhabitants have had mobile telephony since 2015. As of two weeks ago scheduled flights are landing in their brand new airport. And they are about to be connected to SAEx soon.

Just two weeks after the first regular flight to the St Helena’s brand new airport has set an end to islanders’ physical isolation the end of St Helena’s digital isolation is in sight as well.

Almost six years after the initiative to connect St Helena was launched with the aim to foster the island’s socio-economic development, the island government has now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SAEx International Ltd, the company behind the South Atlantic Express cable (SAEx) which will connect South Africa to the US East Coast and Brazil.

The route of the submarine fibre optic cable, which will span the South Atlantic Ocean over a distance of more than 13,000km, passes close to St Helena, allowing a subsea branching unit to be deployed to link the cable to the island. With an initial capacity of 200 Gbps islanders will finally receive real broadband connectivity and be able to join the global Information Society. Today the entire island population of 4,500 shares a slow satellite link of 20 Mbps which is slightly more than the average broadband speed in the UK, which currently sits at 16.5 Mbps per household.

Guess it’s time to plan a visit? Impact study, anyone?

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