21 February 2019
Solomon Islands: Improving broadband internet services and the development and use of telemedicine practices
The Solomon Islands consists of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands and covers a land area of 11,000 square miles in Oceania.
The population of the country stands at approximately 635,254 with 67,000 estimated to live in the national capital, Honiara.
At the time of writing, 88 out of 100 Solomon Islanders do not have access to the internet and the low availability, high cost and poor performance of existing broadband internet services is a major drag on improvements in commercial services and people’s day to day life.
Even where service is available, performance is poor, with the result that online commercial transactions and e-services such as distance learning and telemedicine are not achievable.
It on the question of telemedicine that I would like to focus this article given the needs of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services in providing adequate medical care to a population spread over vast distances of ocean and terrain and aware that there remains critical shortages of qualified doctors, nurses, medical aids, transport and communications.
The good news is that Australia has agreed to a $136 million submarine cable deal which, when the project is finally delivered, will bring high speed, cheap internet from Australia and will revolutionise the country and could likely facilitate the use of telemedicine practices.
What is telemedicine? Well, it’s the remote delivery of health care services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the telecommunications infrastructure. It allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using common technology, such as smartphones or video conferencing, without the need for an in-person visit.
It is often a time-saving way for a consumer to see and speak to a clinician for minor and non-urgent medical needs instead of going to a primary care physician's office or emergency department.
In recent years, many countries have passed laws that make telemedicine easier to practice.
Quoting an example of how telemedicine is being put to practical use in India, many people living in smaller towns and rural communities in India do not have access to the best medical experts. Many of the finest doctors in India still practice in the largest Indian cities, meaning rural communities and people living in smaller towns do not have easy access to doctors.
However, with the emergence of telemedicine, this dynamic is changing because the best doctors are being brought together with patients living in the remotest corners of India by the use of technology.
Telemedicine could be of similar practical use to the Solomon Islands medical services and to patents living in remote area and it would be my hope to see the use of technology and the advance of effective and efficient broadband services come about in my lifetime.