Information Communication Technologies (ICT) are more important for the Pacific Islands than for the others given that the Pacific Islands are scattered over larger areas and have very small economies that need to play to the larger demand at the world stage, said Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP) Professor Rajesh Chandra during the 2016 Pacific Update Conference on 19 July 2016.
Professor Chandra presented on the ‘Role of ICT in Development’ as part of a panel discussion on ICT at the Japan-Pacific ICT Multipurpose Theatre.
He said that although there are pockets of advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) developments, the overall ICT development in the Pacific Islands is lagging behind other regions,
“Essentially if you look at ICT and combine that with knowledge, than we realise that our prosperity and ability to link into the world system with any sense of dignity and our ability to have any kind of competitive edge means that effective speedy utilisation of ICT is crucial,” Professor Chandra said.
During the last forum leaders meeting in Port Moresby, the leaders adapted ICT as one of the five major priorities.
USP has been recognised as the lead regional agency for ICT and as such the Vice-Chancellor and President chairs the working group and the Secretariat is based at USP.
The CROP ICT Working Group has been significantly strengthened with new members that now include the Australian and New Zealand Government, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, and representatives of the private sector, leading ICT service providers, member countries and representative of the civil society.
Professor Chandra highlighted that the idea of the strengthened Working Group is that everyone works together to share information or synergise the efforts that everybody is making and be the central group that is able to coordinate for better effectiveness for the region.
“One of the main benefits of cooperation in the region is going to be in adoption of common standards and templates taking more advantage of what is working in what country rather than trying to get to do different things,” he said.
Professor Chandra also talked about the key pillars of the regional ICT initiative, which include, connectivity; regulatory, data, monitoring and evaluation of ICT; cybersecurity; e-government; e-commerce; e-learning; e-health; capacity building, education and research; disaster management; and standards and protocols.
According to the Director of Urban, Social Development and Public Management of the ADB, Ms Emma Veve, there are number of technologies through which the Pacific can become connected, for instance through satellite connections, fibre optic cables, and O3B which is a lower level satellite that offers cheaper services where many countries are taking advantage of these services.
“We are also doing a lot to encourage the use of internet for development purposes once it is put in place so we are looking at ways to connect to communities, put together community centres at schools where children could use the computers during daytime, doing a pilot project for ICT in education in the Solomon Islands, doing mobile diabetes pilot activity in Tonga, and so on,” Ms Veve highlighted.
Ms Veve’s presentation was on Enhancing ICT in the Pacific: Becoming connected. Other panellists included Dr Abel Pires da Silva, Senior Adviser - Ministry of Public works, Transport and Communication, Timor-Leste and Mr Rhinehart Silas, Chairman of the Palau National Telecommunications Commission.