Over the last decade the region has experienced considerable liberalisation and entry of new service providers in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.
This was the sentiment relayed by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP), as part of his goodwill message during the Commonwealth Broadband Pacific Forum 2017 on 25 July 2017 in Samoa.
Professor Chandra highlighted that greater availability of broadband and liberalisation of the telecom market has resulted in falling prices and considerable mobile coverage which improve lives of our people in the Pacific.
“Most of us present here will agree that ICT and knowledge are crucial for our survival, development, and competiveness for engaging with the world system with dignity and prosperity and adequate broadband is one of the most important drivers of contemporary development,” Professor Chandra said.
He stressed that the Commonwealth Broadband Pacific Forum comes at a very opportune time and can accelerate the use of ICTs in the Pacific to improve the lives of Pacific Islands people.
The Vice-Chancellor and President talked about the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) ICT Working Group, which has been assigned overall mandate and responsibility for ensuring that the vision of the leaders is effectively advocated, co-ordinated, and facilitated.
USP has been recognised as the lead regional agency for ICT and the Secretariat is based at USP.
The CROP ICT Working Group is significantly strengthened with new members that now include representatives of Pacific Governments, representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Governments, the ADB and the World Bank, and, private sector, leading ICT service providers, and representative of the civil society.
Professor Chandra informed the participants that the CROP ICT Working Group has conceptualised the whole spectrum of ICT system as consisting of ten (10) synergistic pillars led by associated active agencies in the Pacific including areas in connectivity, regulatory issues, cybersecurity, e-Government, e-Commerce, e-Health, capacity building, standards and protocols and disaster management.
“The CROP ICT Working Group is working to ensure that all the players active in Pacific Islands ICT development can work closely together to yield better results and avoid wastage of scarce resources,” Professor Chandra noted.
In his address, Professor Chandra highlighted that strong partnership is needed between governments, development partners, regional agencies, and the private sector which is now possible through the CROP ICT Working Group and through the actions of many governments and development partners;
He also noted that the smaller island countries, because of their extreme vulnerabilities and small economies, need special assistance, as much of the earlier assistance was for marine fibre and which is not considered to have a strong business case for it.
The Conference was attended by Her Excellency Hon. Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Acting Prime Minister of Samoa; Hon. Siaosi Sovaleni, Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Shola Taylor, Secretary General of Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation; Mr Sione Veikoso, President of Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association; Government Ministers, and members of the diplomatic corps.