Things are now done in Vanuatu that were only dreams several years ago!
Alcatel-Lucent helps turn Fiji into the Information and communication technology (ICT) hub of the South Pacific
Alcatel-Lucent’s French-flagged Ile de Ré cable ship has started to roll out the new Interchange submarine cable system that will link Port Vila,Vanuatu to Suva, Fiji.
According to Simon Fletcher, CEO of Interchange Limited, this 1239km cable is intended to help increase Vanuatu’s broadband internet access and affordability, as well as to give them access to the Southern Cross Cable, the main trans-Pacific system that connects Fiji, Australia and New Zealand to the United States of America. Following extensive underwater studies of the area, the cables were manufactured in Alcatel-Lucent’s cable factory in Calais, in the North of France and recently transferred to Fiji via a freighter.
France’s Ambassador to Fiji H.E Gilles Montagnier stated that: “Fiji has been the hub of the Pacific for many years. Today it is also the ICT hub of the region. This is very important for Fiji but also wonderful news for Fiji’s French speaking neighbours in the region as it means facilitating regional integration.”
The story above is important for understanding what can be done in the Republic of Vanuatu. The reason is simple. I sat beside Simon Fletcher in 2009 on a three-hour Air Vanuatu commuter flight to Sydney, Australia. In general conversation, I asked Simon, “Are you off to work or a holiday back to Australia?” His reply was one of those that you can’t forget. “Well, Richard, I am chasing funding.”
Remember back in early January 2009? The global meltdown? The Lehman Brothers crash? Banks were telling us all nothing less than fairy stories to protect their brands and not lending to anybody.
“How much and for what reason?” I asked. An enthusiastic reply with a flash of smile put Simon Fletcher into first-gear sales mode. He raised himself up in his seat like a lion reading the landscape before chasing down his prey.
“$48 million dollars US,” he replied, “for a new communication cable. A ship will travel out and pick up the USA South Pacific communications cable that runs from the states down to Australia swoops around via Fiji, and we wish to pick it up off the sea bed and splice in a feeder cable that will run to the main Vanuatu township Port Vila in Vanuatu. With that cable Vanuatu will have no more reliance on expensive communication satellites.” (Local Australian carriers Optus and Telstra were charging as much as $4.40 cents per minute.)
You can only imagine the changes that this would bring to Vanuatu: Data centers, banks, insurance companies, distance learning from the best universities in the world.
Well, I was taken aback, but here he was– all 6-foot-plus in his early thirties, I guess–strong as a mallee bull with a determined persona. I believed, but what a challenge! I also thought I would see Simon in airports, cafes, and restaurants around Vanuatu, chasing the dream. We would swap stories about doing business in the friendly nation of Vanuatu.
Here is the result of his dream, and dreams do come true. This is no mean feat. The credit downturn has held many back, but not Simon Fletcher.
“Well done, Simon, and thank you!”
So here is my punchline: A great man once said, “Some watch it happen. Some make it happen.”
Which one are you?
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