Tuvalu is a small country located in the middle of nowhere, at a point in the Pacific between Australia and Hawaii. Its population of around 11,000 people spread over 9 small islands, of which only 49.32 per cent have low-speed Internet access via satellite.
And yet, one in 12 dollars of public money comes directly from the Internet, more specifically from the geographical top-level domain granted to it by the International Telecommunication Union in 1996: .tv.
A quarter of a century after it was granted (which, although linked to the name of the country, refers internationally to television), the growing popularity of streaming video and video game services is generating equally growing revenues for the island’s government: let us remember that Amazon, for example, provided its popular Twitch platform with one of these domains.
An economy based on fishing… and streaming platform domains
Tuvalu’s main source of income is the sale of its fishing rights. But the sale of .tv domains is already in second place, and the Tuvaluan authorities see the potential for it to take the top spot. In a statement to the Washington Post, Seve Paeniu, Tuvalu’s finance minister, said
“[The .tv] has provided us with a steady and secure income. It allows the government to provide essential services to our people, such as schooling and medical services, as well as to improve the basic economic infrastructure.
The .tvs started to be commercialized in 1998, through the Canadian company Information.CA. Delayed payments led to the contract being taken over by California-based Idealab, and soon after, the first million dollars received by the Tuvalu government allowed it to join in 2000 as the 189th member of the UN.
In 2001, the marketing of these domains fell to the American company Verisign. The agreement between the islands and this company, currently in force, was renewed in 2011 and generates Tuvalu $5 million in annual revenue.
However, that agreement is due to be reviewed in 2021 (either by Verisign or by another company), which could result in even greater revenue for Tuvaluans.