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Life | Paradise Domain

What’s in a name? To a tiny nation in the South Pacific, plenty. The country is Tuvalu, and thanks to the Internet domain name registry, Tuvalu looked as if it might be about to hit pay dirt. Tuvalu is a string of coral rocks in the South Pacific: nine low-lying islands that make up one of the world’s smallest, most isolated countries. Largely unknown to tourists, Tuvalu and its 9,000 people suffer from underdevelopment and a lack of jobs. It’s a country so poor that four or five fishermen are lost every year because they can’t afford compasses for their boats. Other than fishing, people get by harvesting coconuts – pretty much the only thing the soil will grow. But Tuvalu had one valuable asset: its coveted domain name – dot tv. In 1999 the prime minister determined to capitalize on this by selling the name to a Pasadena dot.com company – in exchange for several million dollars and access to the new wired-up world. But, this Life episode asks, who’s benefitting most? – the Tuvalu islanders themselves, used to a relaxed, Pacific way of life with few mod cons, or the Pasadena corporation? A tale of digital divide’¦.

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