The Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) ICT Working Group (WG) met at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus in Suva on 28 March 2018.
Joining the meeting for the first time were Her Excellency Kim Aroi, High Commissioner of Nauru representing Nauru (Forum Troika) and Small Island States (SIS); Mr Tuaimalo Asamu Ah Sam, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Communication and IT representing Samoa (Forum Troika); Mr Adam McWilliams, Chief Technology Officer as the Pacific Community’s new representative; Ms Alisi Tuqa, Acting CEO Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO); Ms Yukari Ono, Resident Representative and Mr Shin Suto, Assistant Resident Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Mr Simione Bula from the Pacific Disability Forum.
Other organisations present were Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA), Pacific Power Association (PPA), Vodafone, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Asian Development Bank (ADB), New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and USP.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Chair of the CROP ICT WG and Vice-Chancellor and President of USP welcomed everyone present including those joining through video.
He reiterated the importance of the CROP ICT WG under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism saying it is responsible for coordinating the various tasks done by various players in the key areas in ICT.
This he said, ensures that all players in ICT are aware of what each one is doing and communicate on a regular basis, to ensure that there is maximum benefit to the region in all the key areas and addresses the needs of the region.
Professor Chandra mentioned the meeting was essential to take stock of where the CROP ICT WG in terms of completion of some of the initiatives agreed on earlier in terms of implementing the high priorities of the Pacific Regional ICT Strategic Action Plan (PRISAP).
He also urged members to make use of the CROP ICT WG portal for discussion and to provide comments.
“We have seen unprecedented connectivity in the region and more is in the pipeline so that by 2020 nearly all the Pacific Island countries and territories will have fibre. This means that a lot of work needs to be done in terms of how to optimise all of these capacities,” he said.
He also mentioned that he had had a fruitful meeting with Honourable Afamasaga Lepuia’i Rico Tupai, Samoa’s Minister for Communication and Technology, where they discussed landing of the new submarine Cable Tui Samoa. The Tui Samoa Cable spans more than 1,470 km, connecting Samoa to Fiji with a spur to Wallis & Futuna and Vanua Levu and Suva (FINTEL landing Station).
Discussions during the meeting focused on completion of some of the initiatives such as the implementing the high priorities of the PRISAP.
The PRISAP was formulated in response to calls from Pacific ICT Ministers at the ICT Minister meeting in Tonga in 2010 for greater coordination in effectively utilising ICT for sustainable development, governance, and improving the livelihood of Pacific communities.
Various Task Forces have been formed that are initiating assessment of the priorities which will lead to recommendation on regional actions to help drive better development outcomes. The results from the assessment that the Task Force are doing will also be shared with Pacific Island Country representatives at a two-day proposed meeting entitled Pacific Island Countries, Territories, and Partners in ICT Meeting 2018 - Advancing ICT Development and Usage in the Pacific Region.
The meeting is expected to review and decide on the priorities considered as the highest ones that will need regional approaches, immediate actions as well as oversight by the CROP ICT WG.
Professor Ian Young, Director for International Centre for Demographic Partnerships (ICDP) was also invited to brief members on Pacific Connect, which was launched by the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in September 2017. The purpose of which is to connect and forge strong strategic relationships between Australian and Pacific leaders across the public and private sectors in support of the region’s development.
Professor Young also updated the CROP ICT WG on the proposed dialogue in Fiji focusing on ‘university capacity building’ which could explore digital related issues including: online education; efficiencies through enhanced IT processes in universities such as security and student management; and/or impacts of IT on research.
The meeting ended with CROP ICT WG members and observers confirming to work together and progressing the work under the regional ICT initiative that the Pacific Island Forum Leaders have mandated.