The third Forum ICT Ministers meeting, facilitated by The University of the South Pacific, (USP) was held at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre in Nuku’alofa on 19 June 2015.
The meeting was opened by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala and attended by ministers from Tonga, Niue, Samoa and Solomon Islands, and official delegates from 13 countries, members of the CROP ICT Working Group and observers from 11 organisations.
In welcoming delegates, Professor Chandra said, “it was a privilege to be given the pleasant task of welcoming you all to this auspicious event”.
“Your presence signifies the continued and growing interest in and the importance of ICTs to the livelihood of our people of the Pacific region,” he stated.
“USP, being the Chair of the Council of Regional Organisations Pacific (CROP) Working Group on ICT, is delighted to be highly involved with this meeting which is generously hosted by the Government of Tonga, facilitated by USP and ITU with support from our development partners such as the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) and others,” he said.
Professor Chandra congratulated the Republic of Marshall Islands, Kingdom of Tonga and Vanuatu for proactively taking measures to improve connectivity in their countries through fibre connections. He also congratulated Cook Islands and others who have taken advantage of O3B satellite technology to improve connectivity in their respective countries.
During the meeting proper, Pacific ICT Ministers noted the many benefits of ICT, including the fact that they have enormous potential for socio-economic development as a key tool for the development, governance and sustainable livelihood of the people of the Pacific.
They noted that ICTs are an increasingly important tool for achieving development priorities under the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals and the SIDs Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway, among others.
It was further noted that ICTs are essential for sustainable development, disaster risk management and response, and cybersecurity.
Furthermore, delegates discussed a number of challenges, including those identified through the review of the Framework for Action on ICT Development in the Pacific (FAIDP), undertaken by the CROP ICT Working Group, including the need to ensure a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) capability for the region into the future.
Other challenges include:
• Lack of coordination and information around ICT initiatives within the Pacific region countries by countries, donor agencies and international organisations that could benefit from common approaches, standards, resources and infrastructures in ICT, that could provide the force multiplier effect through cooperative development scaling and multi-purposing of technical resources. This includes human resource development and harnessing of available expertise and resources; and
• Lack of common knowledge and supporting data to facilitate decision-making in countries of the Pacific around ICT initiatives and ICT support for sustainable development. A central regional repository that shares common knowledge and public domain data from various regional and international sources would foster common perspectives and approaches to benchmarks, targets and planning objectives.
As a result, the meeting has encouraged Pacific countries to engage with the CROP ICT Working Group and other relevant partners, such as the ITU and the Pacific ICT Regulatory Resource Centre (PiRRC) to develop an effective mechanism for coordination and data collection on ICTs that will enable improved decision-making, investment and assessment of progress against ICT Pacific objectives.
Other outcomes of the meeting include:
• Endorsement of the FAIDP Review undertaken by the CROP ICT Working Group and supported by this meeting; and
• Progress agreement of the PRISAP, as the action plan which will follow-on from the FAIDP, and which identifies key themes including policy and regulatory frameworks, cybersecurity, human capacity building, infrastructure and universal access, gender equality, leadership and governance, disaster risk management etc. to enable its finalisation and adoption ahead of its implementation from 2016 to 2020.
The Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting was preceded by the Pacific ICT Officials’ Meeting held at the same venue on 17-18 June 2015.