When you hear the word “brain drain”, it’s easy to have a misunderstanding of what’s implied. When I first saw the phrase, I thought it meant being tired at the end of the day or burnout from work after running in the rat race for years on end. While those very much can happen, that is not the definition I mean here.

Brain Drain is a phrase used to describe the flight of intellectual workers away from
rural and remote areas.

For years, island nations and small, rural cities on mainlands alike have experienced an emigration for work. Larger, more technologically connected cities have pulled these workers away from their roots for higher paying jobs and benefits that cannot be found in manual work.

Sadly, this can leave smaller cities and islands struggling for the growth they are trying to attain. More brain power can lead to better innovations for these areas, more efficiencies, and could allow income to stay put in that area, instead of being spent elsewhere. Those tech firms could help improve automation on the island, and assist with doing more with less in terms of space. After all, an island needs all the efficiency it can get.

Why are workers leaving islands?

Why this happens is very easy to figure. Working at a tech firm in a developed city or country that pays well and can help promote you to other higher paying jobs (that doesn’t depend on tourism or local attractions) is a valid choice for many. Plain and simple, it’s secure, with less chances of catastrophic events like a Category 5 hurricane wiping out their livelihood.

Many workers simply leave their local islands or rural areas for university and never really return for work. They often use that university as a launching pad into their futures for the sake of work and come back only to visit family. This means these rural places are supporting these kids until the age of roughly 18, but don’t really get any money in return.

Current Internet Options for Islands and Rural Cities

The bigger question is why can’t these islands and rural places compete? That, my friend, gets down to money and logistics. Let’s take a look at one of the biggest inhibitors – the internet. The internet, although it seems magical, does still require hardware. There must be a server on land somewhere with cables connected to your home or place of internet usage. These are called land lines.

In rural places, such as mountainous regions, or in island nations hundreds of miles off of the coast, it can be difficult to lay those cables. And, there is often the cost question associated with this, should we spend this much money as a nation to get the internet to so few people? But wait, there’s more!

In the past 20 years or so, other internet options that have been developed included satellite internet. Although it can also be expensive, the biggest problem lies in connectivity. Due to these satellites being so far away from Earth, connectivity can be so slow that it is simply unproductive.

And, where you live on Earth dictates the speed at which you can receive satellite internet. If you live around the equator, you are more likely to have success with satellite internet, however, for island nations and rural places in Northern Europe or Southern Africa, this can be a struggle.

This all sounds like doom and gloom, however, there are cases where fiber optic and satellite do work for many rural and island nations. But, there is one more option I want to talk about.

What is Starlink?

Starlink is a new kid on the block and is from the mind of Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, an electric car, and SpaceX, an aerospace company. He has put a lot of money into Starlink satellites, with the effort to bring reliable, high speed internet to those currently struggling with that need. In essence, this is aimed towards our remote working friends in rural and island areas.

But what makes this different from other satellites? Well, Starlink satellites are aimed to orbit Earth much closer than current satellites. This means faster transmissions and less latency experienced by those currently using satellite internet. Starlink is not available just yet, but is expected to be a viable option as of 2021.

Why is this important in fighting Brain Drain?

Ah, yes – let’s circle back around on this. Many of the workers leaving for higher paying tech jobs simply need to be connected in the form of internet and cellular service. Remote work has improved drastically over the past 3 years, and this means that companies are willing to allow workers to do their jobs from almost anywhere – as long as they’re connected.

Islands and rural areas being willing to invest as much as possible into that connectivity means they can promote a rural work life much better and can actually compete with the larger, more centralized locations. Many people are starting to ask, “where do I want to live”, instead of “where do I want to work”, and the answer is that many do indeed want to live rurally and remotely.

While this article does not have all of the answers, and I’m not sure if we will see Starlink pull through (or any of its competitors) in the next few years, this is definitely an issue that remote places are striving to improve.

If you are thinking about changing your location and finally fulfilling your dream of moving to an island, then you should not miss this post: Things To Consider Before Moving To An Island