The World Bank has approved a USD3 million plan to help reform the Marshall Islands’ telecommunications sector and boost access to mobile telephony and internet for the country’s 53,000 people, signalling the launch of its first Country Partnership Strategy with the Pacific Island nation. According to the organisation, the Marshall Islands is one of the world’s least connected countries and access to telecoms is low, with just 2% of people subscribing to internet services, and only about a quarter having a mobile phone. The project aims to help the country attract new investment in telecoms and bring down service costs, in part through increased competition. In the Pacific region and Papua New Guinea, such reforms have given over two million more people access to mobile phones, with much cheaper calls, the World Bank added.
‘We welcome our renewed partnership with the World Bank, and look forward to working together on an ambitious agenda,’ said the Honorable Dennis Momotaro, Minister of Finance, adding: ‘The telecoms project is an ideal starting point – improving telecoms will make it easier for families and friends to keep in touch, promote business opportunities, and link communities to essential services.’ The Marshall Islands will receive assistance through grants from the International Development Association. A USD3 million grant is being provided for the ICT Sector Development Operation, the first of a series of three operations to address telecoms reform which will be implemented by the Marshall Islands’ Ministry of Finance.