Keynote address delivered by the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Esala Nayasi
at the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association Strategy Forum
17 October, 2023, Suva, Fiji.
Mr Phillip Henderson, the Chair of the Pacific Islands Telecommunication Association Executive Committee
Colleagues and friends,
Bula vinaka to you all.
On behalf of the Secretary General, Henry Puna, allow me to thank you for the opportunity to join you this morning and share some brief reflections on our regional context and political direction, as it relates to technology and connectivity.
Digital technology continues to power and drive innovations and enhanced productivity across many sectors and has provided an enabling framework for businesses and services to flourish.
The ever-expanding digital ecosystem has a critical role to play in advancing development goals at all levels, if it is navigated and utilised in a careful manner.
Recognising this, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders launched the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent at their meeting in July 2022.
The 2050 Strategy encompasses our collective vision and levels of ambition for the next three decades.
Central to enabling this collective vision is technology and connectivity.
It is fair to say that we have many challenges ahead in the way we develop, use and secure information and communication technology but despite this, I cannot emphasise enough that the ICT sector remains such a crucial part of our development.
We saw firsthand during the pandemic, the value of ongoing investment and support to our ICT sector. It kept us connected, it allowed us to continue engage in business transactions and in many regards, it sustained our livelihoods in very unusual circumstances.
So it is imperative that we, as a region, work together, to develop our ICT across the region.
I can honestly say that as a political organisation, this is an area beyond out technical expertise, and we will rely on partnerships and collaborations with organisations like PITA to inform and advise the direction of our collective efforts in this sector.
We see reinvigoured effort across the region to collectively consider and explore opportunities to overcome challenges to ICT development, including through the recent meeting of Ministers of ICT in Papua New Guinea in August.
A key outcome of this discussion was the Lagatoi Declaration which includes some important objectives on Digital transformation, innovation, entrepreneurship, infrastructure, security and trust, and regional cooperation.
On E-Commerce, I am very pleased that PITA is part of the newly established Pacific Regional E-Commerce alliance which aims to enhance coordination, awareness, and resource mobilization to enable the Pacific to integrate local markets and bridge the gap to lucrative global markets.
Because of the nature of the geography in this region and the size of our economies, it is only natural that we explore opportunities for economies of scale in our regional solutions.
But this will require us to ensure that we have strengthened and coordinated regional structures and mechanisms in place to coordinate and cooperate on the development of ICT in the Pacific.
There is a groundswell of momentum building at the moment on ICT development in the Blue Pacific Continent.
Governments of the region are committed to seeing improvements.
But as you and I both know, no one sector, neither Governments, the private sector, or our civil society, can achieve the sort of transformational change we aspire to if they act on their own.
I congratulate PITA, and all participants here today, for taking the initiative to come here and discuss ways to break down barriers, remove red tape, and work together to achieve a better Pacific region for all Pacific peoples.
Your discussions today can set the foundation for transformational change in this sector so be ambitious in your vision and be clear on your expectations of Government as well as regional organisations such as the Forum.
Because one thing is clear – we all need to work together, moving forward. In this day and age, partnerships at all levels, are so crucial to advancing priorities.
Let us all look up to that vision, and use opportunities such as this week’s meeting, to think about how you can all, individually and collectively, play a part in helping us to achieve it.
On that note, and in closing, let me once again say meitaki, tankiu tumas, vinaka vaka levu, thank you for welcoming the Pacific Islands Forum to join you today.