Technologies of the Nation: Public Wi-Fi and the Demand for More in Niue

Jennifer Anayo, Heather A. Horst

Abstract


The Pacific island nation of Niue has been at the forefront of the digital revolution in the South Pacific. Among other technology initiatives, it established free public Wi-Fi in 2003 as part of its national development strategy. Yet as more Niueans acquired PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, the demand for the Internet in Niue has challenged the public good that the innovative Internet access arrangement afforded. This article draws on eight months of ethnographic research that investigated technology and the roll-out and uptake of a public Wi-Fi initiative in Niue. We begin this article with a brief history of public Wi-Fi globally and in Niue and go on to discuss the partnership between the state and private investment that underpins Wi-Fi. We illustrate the ways the changing media and communication landscape have strained Niue’s public infrastructure investment. We also introduce several examples of Niueans’ struggle with their public infrastructure in light of dynamic digital media ecologies nationally and internationally. We conclude by reflecting on the challenges that investing in technological infrastructure pose for the broader issues of sustainability and development.

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