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Fiji's The World Bank has approved $US5.95 million loan funding to support the construction of a new submarine cable to connect the existing Southern Cross submarine cable network to Vanua Levu, Fiji's second most populated island 150 kilometers north of the capital, Suva on the main island of Viti Levu.

The money is expected to cover the design, supply and installation of a 95-kilometer submarine fiber-optic cable; construction of the cable landing station in Savusavu; purchase of internet capacity; and technical assistance for the Fiji Commerce Commission.

The project is closely linked to the ongoing Samoa Connectivity Project:  the Savusavu cable will connect directly to the planned Tui Samoa cable supported under that project.

Both are part of the World Bank's overarching Pacific Regional Connectivity Program, a series of projects undertaken with development partners to help Pacific Island countries deliver more affordable ICT to households and businesses, reducing their isolation and boosting economic opportunities.

The Bank said the Fiji Connectivity Project would help stimulate local business through improved connectivity, boost e-commerce and reduce transaction costs, and enable the development of other information communication technology-based services in Fiji and throughout the Pacific.

Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, said:  'Providing affordable and resilient connectivity is essential to ensuring all Fijians, regardless of their age, their gender or where they live, can take full advantage of economic opportunities and improve service delivery across health, education and other services.'

He added: 'In addition to delivering faster and more reliable internet, the cable infrastructure will be significantly more resilient to cyclones, helping keep essential communication links open during times of crisis.'

Fiji's Attorney-General and Minister for Communications, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said reliable internet access for the nation's Northern Division would translate directly into more effective public services and reduced transaction costs for businesses, and help bring the quality of life for Fijians in the North in line with that of those living on the main island, Viti Levu.

According to the World Bank, Fiji is a well-established submarine cable hub with connections to Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, the United States (Hawaii) and Vanuatu, with a growing technical skills base and talent pool, and an emerging ICT services sector with significant potential to provide more jobs to the country '“ as outlined in the World Bank's ICT for Jobs in the Pacific report, released in 2015.

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