A 5-Point Plan To Future-Proof Tuvalu “The Sinking Nation”
In a nut-shell, here are the 5 key points:
- Open .tv to a bidding war
- Run a nation-wide digital transformation program
- Improve internet infrastructure
- Go cashless
- Invest in land & property
Read on for an explanation of each point.
1. Open .tv to a bidding war (but negotiate wisely)
This would be Step 1. Although Verisign and the Tuvaluan government may have good relations, we now know just how valuable .tv is (thanks Twetch). And where there’s value, there’s opportunity. Opening .tv up to a bidding war between foreign companies means you can let the market speak for itself in terms of how much Tuvalu could really get from .tv. There is also a few decades worth of data to make some educated forecasts on what it may be valued at in the future. When it comes to negotiations, make sure it’s a win/win, but be clear that Tuvalu is in the position to set terms. Not others. Do not let others take advantage of you.
2. Improve internet infrastructure
With new terms and cashflow, immediately focus on improving the internet infrastructure on all 8 islets. The reason for this is because we’re going to leverage the fact that Tuvalu:
- Has a 99.0% adult literacy rate
- All speak English
- Struggle with finding work (usually travel to neighboring islands)
With an improved internet infrastructure, we can then focus on skills that will actually leverage their strengths.
3. Run a nation-wide digital transformation program
In a knowledge economy, it is not physical property that matters, it is intellectual (IP). Smaller nations like England, Switzerland, and more recently Singapore, have shown just how much you can accomplish with focus and leveraging your strengths.
As such, with a small but focused population (just shy of 13,000), and high literacy, the only thing lacking is connection and applied knowledge. It amazes me that, in today’s day and age, people forget how much knowledge is available on the Internet for free, which could enable them to make money in abundance from anywhere, any time.
By leveraging the rising trend of the freelance economy (also known as the “gig economy”), Tuvalu could easily tap into this and start earning an income by teaching sales, marketing and digital skills (e.g. website creation, graphic design, programming, etc.) to the population. Consequently, complaints around needing to travel to other countries for work diminishes.
“In 2018, the freelance workforce accounted for almost 57 million professionals who earned nearly one trillion in income, according to a workforce survey (largest to date) commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union. In total, this represents over 35% of the entire workforce through 2018.”
By teaching (online) sales and marketing — skills that are applicable to any industry — you also enable citizens to “sell” their newly learned digital skills. Nearby APAC nations that have done this (e.g. Philippines, India, Malaysia) have seen huge spikes in work and opportunity as a result.
4. Go cashless
There is an increasing trend for nations to go cashless. There’s also examples of nations in the past who have “leap-frogged” technologies to catchup to other countries (e.g. the rural poor of Bangladesh skipping land-lines to go straight to mobile phones).
Since the nation has very few ATMs as is, don’t have a currency of their own (currently use Australian dollars), and has a population > 13,000, going cashless may be far easier to accomplish in Tuvalu than it would for larger nations. Singapore’s relatively small size made it easier for its government to enact changes as it was transforming from a third world country to first (led by its founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew).
In order to go cashless, I’d look at leveraging some of the latest in blockchain technology (e.g. Bitcoinˢᵛ). Most people don’t know that Bitcoin is more than just a cryptocurrency used for speculation or “digital gold”, its underlying technology can enable far more through its public ledger and micro-transaction innovations.
Using partners such as Tokenized, I’d tokenize the country’s currency supply (pegging it to fiat while the country gets used to digital), and invest in all businesses to enable completely cashless transactions, with Bitcoinˢᵛ as the underlying financial infrastructure.
Some other benefits to using Bitcoinˢᵛ for the entire country includes:
- Being one of the first to innovate in such a manner
- Using a blockchain that is built for scale
- An immutable public ledger to track cashflow (and reduce corruption)
Would also need to ensure that citizens can easily onboard or off-board into whatever fiat currency they so wish (or at least have the option), but with companies such as Revolut or even HandCash, they will hopefully see the benefit of keeping their day-to-day transactions digital. Many nations are already racing to go cashless, including Sweden. This is all to help set the country up for an increasingly digital future, without sacrificing culture.
5. Invest in land and property
After setting previous steps in motion, Tuvalu could then look into purchasing land/property in other countries, rent them out, and then use the additional cashflow (plus income from .tv) to raise the islands to safer heights. Since Tuvalu has already rejected offers from Chinese firms to build artificial islands (much like how Dubai has done), Tuvalu just needs a way to fund its own development.