The first meeting of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Working Group (WG) for 2017 was held at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus on 20 February 2017.
The CROP ICT WG is responsible for coordinating the different tasks undertaken by various players in the key areas in ICT. This ensures that all players in ICT are aware what each one is doing and communicate on a regular basis to ensure that there are maximum benefits to the region in all the key areas. It also addresses the needs of the region in a consistent and planned manner.
The meeting was attended by representatives from Australia, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA); Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS); Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO); Pacific Islands Communications Association (PITA); Pacific Power Association (PPA); South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO); Vodafone; and USP. The Asian Development Bank (ADB); New Zealand; Small Island States (SIS) represented by Cook Islands; South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP); and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) attended via video conference.
The Chair of the Working Group, Professor Rajesh Chandra welcomed members to the meeting, especially new members including representatives from JICA, and SIS being represented by Cook Islands in 2017.
Some of the key issues discussed during the meeting included the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders’ decision from the 47th Forum Communiqué; proposal for a bigger group meeting of the ICT stakeholders; landscape of ICT in the region; updates on the Pacific Regional ICT Strategic Action Plan (PRISAP) which will be finalised once feedback is received from the Working Group; and the finalisation of the work plan for 2017 with clear timelines set by each player.
Professor Chandra reiterated the importance of the WG which is responding to the decision made by the Leaders on ICT under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism in Port Moresby, PNG in 2015. The Leaders had asked that the WG work together and coordinate the various tasks that are done by various organisations with the intent to speed up development of ICT by ensuring that different groups and partners work together and thus avoid duplication.
The meeting suggested forming a Task Force that will look into the logistics of this bigger group meeting, such as confirming the list of invitees and determining the aims and objectives of the meeting, hence, a Task Force including PIFS, USP, ADB and PITA was formed.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the launch of the CROP ICT WG Website/Portal by the Chair of the WG and USP did a demonstration on the CROP ICT WG Website/Portal which is now active.
The website houses information about the Working Group, members, meeting documents and other relevant CROP and ICT related information. A platform for forum discussions is also active on the portal, where members can discuss issues relating to ICT. A calendar of events can also be found on the website which will provide information on events related to ICT in the Pacific. The website can be accessed on https://cropict.usp.ac.fj/ .
In the 47th Forum Communiqué the Leaders agreed that Forum members should work together to establish a Computer Emergency Response Team capacity for the region to combat cyber threats and cybercrime.
On the decision about cyber security, Professor Chandra told CROP ICT WG members that, “it was one of the pillars and priorities of the CROP ICT WG and we read that the decision of the Leaders as reinforcing the importance of building cyber security capacity in the region”.
ITU is working with a number of member states in addressing cyber security policies and there are now a number of states that are implementing these but the WG noted that there is a need to have regional policies on cyber security especially for those that are not able to get national CERT.
In addition, the Private Sector Dialogue with Forum Leaders also identified the need for prioritisation of ICT infrastructure and solutions as one of the key issues that needs to be addressed in considering improvements in business processes.
The CROP ICT WG will continue to work together to provide coordination and advisory services.
It was also decided that the CROP ICT WG should meet in quarterly periods.