The regulatory jewel of the South Pacific: Samoa’s decade of telecommunications reform

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Mobile Media and Communication, 2016, 4 (3), pp. 295 - 309
Issue Date:
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© The Author(s) 2016. During the last decade Samoa significantly reformed its telecommunications sector. It introduced a new competitor—Digicel—into the market, privatised the state-owned company SamoaTel (now Bluesky Samoa) and established an independent regulator. These reforms have had a dramatic impact on mobile usage in Samoa, and now mobile phones and regular Internet access have become an everyday (and affordable) reality for a vast majority of the population. This paper provides a critical account of one of the most mature mobile markets in the Pacific region. Drawing on semistructured key informant interviews with individuals in the Samoan telecommunications sector and the public service (conducted in April 2014), the paper explores the emergence of a Samoan digital culture, a transformation which has only been possible thanks to the widespread take up of mobile phones on 3G networks. We outline how mobiles are being used in Samoa, the ways in which they integrate (or don’t) wiThexisting social and cultural norms and discuss the wider infrastructural issues that have emerged in light of this increased usage. We end by reflecting on what the Samoan experience can tell us about telecommunications reform in developing countries more generally.
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