May 15, 2021 Last Updated 6:06 PM, May 14, 2021

Tuvalu's digital ambitions

  • May 15, 2021
  • Published in March

Tuvalu has become the first country in the world to choose Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) blockchain to help it migrate to a fully digital economy, a move that may see it also adopt Bitcoin SV, the cryptocurrency associated with the BSV blockchain.

The ambitious undertaking, still in very early stages, is expected to digitise all aspects of life in the Polynesian atoll nation, whose population of 11,646 (2019 Census) is concentrated on the main island Funafuti.

“The primary aim of the project is to develop a Tuvalu National Digital Ledger to transform the processes of managing the Tuvalu government and economy in a package designed to suit the unique culture, geography, and society that all Tuvaluans share,” said Simon Kofe, Minister for Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs for Tuvalu, in an email interview with Islands Business.

“The project will enable a complete transfer from the current existing paper-based records and cash system to a fully digital management and cash system. The scalability of the BSV network means Tuvalu can implement relevant technology rapidly, while allowing for organic growth and development over time. Instead of focusing on just the cryptocurrency aspect, we are focusing on using the actual technology for day-to-day transactions - whether big or small. The value of Bitcoin (BSV) is in its micropayments,” Kofe said.

Not to be confused with Bitcoin, which is worth around US$50,000 per coin (February 2021), Bitcoin SV was created in 2018 via a historic event called a “hard fork”.

 

This breakaway faction was led by Australian computer scientist Craig Wright, a well-known blockchain pioneer who is among the many people who claim to be ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’, the Bitcoin creator whose true identity and whereabouts have never been revealed.

Wright is now chief scientist at nChain, a company he founded to promote Bitcoin SV.

nChain is the Tuvalu Government’s major partner in its National Digital Public Ledger project, with support also from Bitcoin consultancy Elas Digital and community tech-consultancy company Faia, whose owner George Siosi Samuels is of Tuvaluan descent and through who the ambitious plan was formed.

According to Kofe, Tuvalu has yet to decide on whether its choice of the BSV blockchain will also mean it will adopt the BSV cryptocurrency to add to its national currencies, the Tuvalu and Australian dollars.

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Papua New Guinea’s Treasurer, Ian Ling-Stuckey says his country has not had “an economic crisis of such complexity or magnitude since World War 2.” Samoa’s finance minister Sili Epa Tuioti calls it a “social and economic tsunami.” The language being employed by institutions and governments in responding to the economic impact of COVID-19 stresses the historic moment we are living through.

The response of international organisations and donor partners to assist Pacific island economies has been swift, although details are still to be ironed out given the pace with which the pandemic is developing and morphing, and the pervasiveness of its impacts across the globe.

Central to that detail will be the form of that assistance; and whether it’s concessional loans, grants, debt forgiveness or a complex combination of all three and more.

What does the crisis mean for tourism, remittances, digital transformation and more? Get your copy of Islands Business to find out more.

 

Growth forecasts

 

2019

2020

2021

Dependencies

Stimulus package

           

ADB Pacific member countries

 

0.3

2.7

Fiscal stimulus measures across the region of at least 10% of GDP

 

Cook Islands

5.3

-2.2

1

Fiscal stimulus measures of approx. 50% of GDP

US$34.7m

Federated States of Micronesia

3

1.6

-3 (WB)

3

0.5 (WB)

Pension fund reform

New capital projects

US$15m

Fiji

 

-4.9

-4.3 (WB)

3 (ADB)

1.9 (WB)

Improved business and investment climate

Limit debt exposure

Climate resilient infrastructure

US$500 million

French Polynesia

       

US$280m

Kiribati

2.4

1.6

1.8

Well managed, sustainable trust funds

 

Marshall Islands

3.8

2.5

-3 (WB)

3.7

1 (WB)

Pension fund reform

Easing of restrictions on travel and transport

 

Nauru

1

0.4

1.1

Well managed, sustainable trust funds

 

Palau

-3

-4.5

-6 (WB)

1.2

0 (WB)

Pension fund reform

Tourism recovery

 

PNG

4.8

0.8

0.2 (WB)

2.8

3.3 (WB)

Good management of public debt

US$1.6billion

Samoa

3.5

-3

-5 (WB)

0.8

0 (WB)

 

US$23.6milloon

Solomon Islands

2.6

1.5

-6.7 (WB)

2.7

-0.3 (WB)

Large infrastructure projects provide some buffer

Reform of tax system

 

Tonga

3

0

0.5 (WB)

2.5

3.2 (WB)

Tourism recovery

Accelerated rehabilitation and recovery post TC Gita

US$25m

Tuvalu

4.1

2.7

3.2

Well managed, sustainable trust funds

 

Vanuatu

2.8

-1

-8 (WB)

2.5

6 (WB)

Benefits of labour mobility schemes are widespread, sustainable

 

Source: ADB Outlook 2020, World Bank, national governments

Dodging the digital divide

  • May 15, 2021
  • Published in April

It will be two long months before Fijian children are back at school; classrooms are scheduled to reopen on June 15

Like them, children in many other Pacific nations and territories are learning at home, or taking extended holidays,  as a result of COVID-19 precautionary measures. Globally, the UN education and cultural agency, UNESCO says this is revealing a startling digital divide, as half of all students currently out of the classroom,or nearly 830 million learners globally, do not have access to a computer.

Writing from Queensland, academic  Carol Farbotko and community leader Taukiei Kitara have suggested this period will give Tuvaluan students more time to join in fishing, farming, and production of handicrafts, thereby “strengthening customary knowledge systems.” However two Tuvalu government employees,  Tala Simeti and Jess Marinaccio are concerned about the logistics of reopening schools, writing in DevPolicy: “if schools re-open too late and students are forced to repeat a year, this may have major ramifications for the entire education system.”

Alongside Kiribati and Vanuatu, Tuvalu offers its students the South Pacific Form Seven Certificate (SPFSC) course. How will they fare during the education lockdown?

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