The Digital Ecosystem Country Assessment (DECA), a flagship initiative of the Digital Strategy, identifies opportunities and risks in a country’s digital ecosystem to help the development, design, and implementation of USAID’s strategies, projects, and activities. It informs USAID Missions and other key decision-makers about how to better understand, work with, and support a country’s digital ecosystem. 

The Pacific Islands regional DECA includes 12 Pacific Island Countries (PICs): Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The report outlines key aspects of the Pacific Islands’ regional digital ecosystem and provides 12 recommendations for creating a more inclusive, safe, and enabling environment. Guided by the three USAID/Pacific Islands Strategic Framework development objectives, which include i) community resilience strengthened; ii); resilient economic growth advanced and iii) democratic governance strengthened, the DECA included desk research, consultations with USAID and the U.S. Department of State, and 108 interviews with stakeholders from civil society, academia, and the private and public sectors. 

Key findings include:

  • Emerging technologies and new approaches with the potential to disrupt the connectivity landscape in PICs proliferate across the region. They offer promise for expanding connectivity, boosting broadband speeds, building resilience, and strengthening digital ecosystems. 
  • Infrastructure resiliency challenges, exacerbated by the region’s vulnerability to climate change, plague PICs, forcing countries into vicious cycles of response and recovery.
  • Low mobile adoption and significant mobile usage gaps caused by affordability challenges, low digital literacy, and lack of locally relevant content leave people behind and risk widening existing inequalities.
  • The proliferation of mis- and disinformation is a growing challenge across the region due in part to a shift in media consumption away from traditional broadcast to digital media, including to social media.
  • Government ICT ministries and their equivalents face challenges in digital system development and digital service maintenance due to low capacity exacerbated by difficulties in retaining talent. 
  • Institutional and infrastructural limitations impede the transition to a Pacific digital economy, particularly in smaller economies. Digital trade and e-commerce takeoff are undermined by weak enabling factors including variables described above such as low digital literacy, gaps in cybersecurity, data protection and policy legislation, and unreliable connectivity.
  • The digital talent pool, dominated by youth, is growing in response to the increased demand for local skills. However, out-migration and a lack of skilled workers result in a mismatch between supply and demand.

USAID’s Digital Strategy charts an Agency-wide approach to development in a rapidly evolving digital age. Building on decades of USAID leadership in digital development, the Strategy outlines USAID’s deliberate and holistic commitment to improve development and humanitarian assistance outcomes through the use of digital technology and to strengthen open, inclusive, and secure digital ecosystems.