The Republic of Seychelles is an isolated tropical archipelago of outstanding natural beauty. It comprises about 115 granite and coral islands in the western part of the Indian Ocean. Temperatures remain constant throughout the year at 24-31 degrees Celsius or 75-88 Fahrenheit. The largest and most economically important island is Mahé. Victoria is its capital. Until now, tourism has been the main business and source of income.
If at this point you think you accidentally logged in to your favorite travel site instead of Internet Evolution, I am going to tell you some important technological achievements happening on the Seychelles right now that will add business opportunity and free Internet access to the paradise islands.
On Dec. 10, 2010, the Seychelles signed an agreement with the Tanzanian telecommunication service provider Zantel to build a submarine fiber optic cable running from the Seychelles to Tanzania. The 1,930-kilometer cable will have 15 boosters between Mahé and the African coast.
The cable will not only benefit the Seychelles, but also will help other African nations coming online. Norman Moyo, CEO of Zantel, said the cable will connect the Seychelles to Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and their neighboring countries.
The project, cofinanced by the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank, has an approximate cost of $47 million. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.
One of the most important goals after the Seychelles’ submarine cable is connected is free access to the Internet in all the schools, hospitals, and other service organizations throughout the island nation.
The free Internet access will enhance the Sheikh Khalifa Schools IT project handed over by the United Arab Emirates to the Seychelles at a ceremony attended by Seychelles President James Michel on April 4, 2011. This project implements a computer-aided learning system in all the primary schools in the Seychelles -- something the Seychellois have long dreamed about putting in place.
The fiber optic link from Zantel is a crucial element in bringing to fruition the energy and work this small and isolated nation has devoted to improving education, healthcare, and business. Since these are the important pillars of any nation, the ability to give educational opportunities to the younger generation, and to deliver state-of-the-art equipment and access to all the information on the Internet for everyone, marks an important milestone in the history of the Seychelles.
Despite the fact that the submarine cable is going to provide free Internet access to schools, hospitals, and other social services on the Seychelles, it remains to be seen whether the private consumers and the community as a whole are going to take real advantage of this effort by responding with new business ideas and making a commitment to contribute to the growth of the economy of the islands. My first impression is that it will.
However, what might happen if private consumers’ willingness for business initiative and progress faces a black cloud of government regulation over the fast and cheap Internet offered? Who is going to determine the market prices, and how affordable will they be?
Let’s also hope that the cable coming from Tanzania runs with better luck than the one which brought the broadband revolution to Africa in 2009 but left many users offline for a good while in July 2010 due to an unexpected fault.
— Susan Fourtané is a freelance journalist based in Finland.