Message by Chair of the CROP ICT Working Group

Welcome to the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Working Group (WG) Website and Portal.

The Pacific region faces unprecedented threats revolving around climate change, natural disaster, food security and increasing crime rates. Global economic challenges continue to impact trade and aid to the region. However, the Pacific in the midst of these challenges possess the capacity to convert these threats into opportunities. World leaders have expressed their commitment to propel the world forward in their commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ICT, unequivocally is an enabler for sustainable development growth in any country.

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders adopted five key initiatives at their summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in September 2015. One of them was regional ICT initiative, which they recognised as a game-changing, transformative enabler of development and regional cooperation and integration. The CROP ICT WG has the overall mandate and responsibility for ensuring that the vision of the Leaders is effectively advocated, coordinated, and facilitated.

USP as the lead organisation in the Pacific for ICT development has progressed work towards strengthening of the CROP ICT WG in light of the general agreement that regional ICT initiative endorsed by the Pacific Leaders should be part of CROP ICT WG.

The focus of the Leaders lie primarily in the establishment of a coordination mechanism to realise the benefits of scalable cooperation and collaboration between all entities involved in various ICT activities in the region. Such collaboration would include inter-agency and multi-agency communications, infrastructure development, the multi-purposing of resources, human resource capability and capacity building, and leveraging ICTs for the benefit of the people of the Pacific Island Countries.

The Working Group needed to be strengthened to include as many relevant partners as possible that can take the role of advocacy, synergise efforts in ICT, and promote a degree of coordination for ICT development in the region with an outcome that the region develops ICT at a greater speed and impact to support the region’s effort in sustainable development and essentially improving the lives of Pacific people.

The strengthened CROP ICT WG members include all CROP agencies (FFA, PIDP, PIFS, PPA, SPC, SPREP, SPTO, and USP) except PASO; Asian Development Bank (ADB); World Bank (WB); Australia and New Zealand government representatives; Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO); Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA); and four member country representation through the Forum Troika (3) and Small Island States (1).

In addition to members, we have observers such as Digicel, Vodafone (Private Sector), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Territories of the region, and representative of Civil Society Organisation (CSO).

Following the Leaders’ directive the University’s regional ICT engagement has been scaled up. We have provided an update to the Leaders at their recent 47th PIF meeting in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) on the work that have been progressed by the CROP ICT WG since the strengthening of this group. The Leaders not only agreed but recommended that given the good work done by USP to strengthen the membership and the Terms of Reference (TOR) and other aspects and the continuing good work being done by the CROP ICT WG it did not require substantive ongoing consideration by the Leaders.

We now have the final draft of the Pacific Regional ICT Strategic Plan (PRISAP). It will continue to be refined in the coming months/years as the Pacific region makes progress in implementing ICT target indicators at regional and national levels. An ICT landscape paper has also been developed which captures the ICT landscape and provides information on what each player involved in ICT in the region is doing in their relevant area(s).

The development of this Website and Portal is an outcome of the CROP ICT WG work plan for 2016 and it provides visibility of the work that the WG is doing. Further momentum is expected to be gained in 2017 through more active engagement with all the members of the strengthened CROP ICT WG and governments. A number of priorities have been identified by the CROP ICT WG and USP as lead agency will ensure that these priorities are undertaken by relevant agencies.

As we all know, our region faces many challenges. In particular, we lag behind other regions in ICTs and high quality deployment of ICTs is required for sustainable development. However, this does not limit us from working towards identifying remedies that will address the emerging and persistent issues. Through the CROP ICT WG we hope to find such solutions.

I trust that we all aspire for the Pacific to have sustainable growth. Together in collaboration, the members and observers of the CROP ICT WG, we hope to make this aspiration a reality through developing sustainable and innovative solutions in ICT for the region. I encourage you to explore the CROP ICT WG website so that you can find out more about what we do. Members can also log in the Portal and share thoughts and discuss issues.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia
Chair of the CROP ICT Working Group

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