The Digital Divide Just Increased Dramatically in the Pacific – at Precisely the Worst Time


American and Australian geologists have confirmed – Antarctica’s Totten Glacier is being consumed from beneath by warm currents of the Southern Ocean. At stake, up to 11.5 feet of Sea Level Rise if a domino-effect melt scenario were to take place across the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

In the Pacific, Emergency Operations Centers from Tahiti to the Solomon Islands, topographic maps of Totten Glacier may soon become a fixture. Cyclones, rain bombs, disease outbreaks such as Zika, droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis–all part of the Disaster Manager’s complex portfolio in the Pacific Islands–now there is a tactical black swan threat that may tip the scales between resilience and outright retreat and relocation.

And in communicating risk, when vast outer island communities stretch throughout Oceania, Internet and cell phone communication is sparse and limited to the wealthy, while FM radio technology is spotty and often confined to urban areas. The Pacific Islands are not the US, Europe, or East Asia–shortwave radio technology is the common denominator that crosses the digital divide, with international broadcasts reaching inexpensive, rugged receivers and providing critical disaster information.

Unfortunately in January 2017, the digital divide is about to expand greatly, as Radio Australia will cease its Pacific shortwave transmission. As Alexandra Wake brilliantly details in the Huffington Post,  the shutdown of Australian shortwave broadcasting has extraordinary implications for impeding Pacific disaster management operations–look no further than cyclone Pam’s impact on Vanuatu in 2015 when international broadcasting played no less than a heroic role in saving lives.

Radio New Zealand International’s shortwave service now alone has a pivotal responsibility in one of the globe’s most vulnerable regions for Abrupt Climate Disruption. It is now a lone voice to many outer islands and rural areas across Oceania that will be increasingly pressured by rain bombs, droughts, and cyclones. In the past two weeks, two bad events have transpired for the Pacific: with Totten glacier’s rapid melting, the prospect of catastrophic risk is growing; with the shutdown of Radio Australia’s shortwave service, the digital divide to address all disasters just got much wider.

This entry was posted in Asia-Pacific, Climate Disruption, Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, Oceania and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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