The Impact of Connectivity on Information Channel Use in Tonga During Cyclone Gita: Challenges and Opportunities for Disaster Risk Reduction in Island Peripheries

  • Aideen FoleyEmail author
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


In island contexts, geographic characteristics such as remoteness and boundedness can substantially impact the capacity for connection, and how people experience the state of being connected, i.e. connectivity. Varying degrees of connectivity may, in turn, affect how island communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather risks. Tropical cyclone warnings are a pertinent example; vital information must reach citizens in isolated peripheral locations, where both telecommunications infrastructure and cultural contexts may differ from the island core, leading to differences in how people access information. Drawing primarily on the case of Tonga, which was affected by Cyclone Gita in 2018, this paper explores these core-periphery patterns relating to how information channels are engaged with when facing extreme weather risks. Census data and cyclone impact data are used to assess spatial patterns in the extent of material and non-material connectivities based on communications, economic and linguistic variables, and to explore the impact of connectivity on the processes of risk reduction and natural hazard response, through dissemination of hazard information. Low-value clusters, i.e. coldspots, in receipt of warnings via ‘modern’ information channels (internet and SMS) are identified on ‘Eua, while hotspots are identified in western Tongatapu. These hotspots and coldspots do not appear to be linked to the accessibility of internet and mobile phones, but do overlap with hotspots and coldspots in linguistic and economic variables, illustrating the potential for non-material differences in socio-cultural context to influence how information channels are engaged with. The implications of these results, including challenges and opportunities for disaster risk dissemination in island peripheries, are also discussed.


Disaster risk reduction Communication Cyclone warning Islands Connectivity 



I gratefully acknowledge the Tonga Department of Statistics, which makes available the data used in this research (TONGA CENSUS 2016 DATA: Tonga Department of Statistics, 2016 Population and Housing Census. GITA IMPACT ASSESSMENT: Tonga Department of Statistics, 2018 Gita Impact Assessment Survey). I also acknowledge the assistance of Mr Iliesa Tora (Pacific Environmental Journalists Network). Maps throughout this paper were created using ArcGIS® software by Esri. ArcGIS® and ArcMap™ are the intellectual property of Esri and are used herein under license. Copyright © Esri. All rights reserved. For more information about Esri® software, please visit


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyBirkbeck University of LondonLondonUK

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