Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
“We are committed to using ICT as a key tool for the development, governance and sustainable livelihood of the people of our countries.” – Tonga Declaration by Pacific ICT Ministers (2010)
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) play a significant role in development globally and regionally. A range of economic and social benefits could be realised and the Pacific region recognises the unprecedented opportunities in various sectors which could contribute to improving the welfare of the people. However, there are challenges experienced by the region such as resource constraints, limited capacity, inadequate infrastructure, data availability, amongst others which need to be addressed.
ICT is included under goal 9 (Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation) of the sustainable development goals. One of the targets under this goal is ‘to significantly increase access to information and communication technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to internet in least developed countries by 2020.’
In 2015 Forum Leaders adopted a regional ICT initiative as a priority for regional action. This initiative originally focused on establishing a High Level Regional ICT Advisory Council which would facilitate common approaches, standards, resources, and infrastructure, as well as cooperation and collaboration in development, scaling and multi-purposing of technical resources. However, after deliberation by the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) ICT Working Group, it was agreed that the roles proposed for an advisory council could be incorporated into the CROP ICT Working Group. To enable this to occur, the Working Group has updated its to incorporate the key and strategic elements of the proposed advisory council, and its membership has expanded to include representatives from the Forum Troika, Smaller Island States Territories, relevant development partners, and the private sector, to ensure a more holistic membership.
In 2016, the CROP ICT Working Group developed the Pacific Regional ICT Strategic Action Plan for 2016 to 2020.
The Action Plan seeks to enhance social and economic sustainable development, good governance and security through better access and use of ICT across the region.
It highlights actions needed to create an enabling environment to support and harmonise national and regional efforts to achieve safe, secure, affordable and competitive ICT services.
Implementation of the Action Plan will primarily occur at the national level and therefore it focuses only on regional interventions that are aimed principally at supplementing capacity and providing support to national governments and stakeholders in developing and implementing their own national policies and plans.
The Plan recognises that benefits of ICT have been unevenly distributed within and between countries, sectors and socio-economic groups thus creating a “digital divide”. The digital divide is often characterised by low levels of access, poverty, language, gender, age and disabilities.
It also aims to develop ICT as a tool for the promotion of social issues, gender equality, inclusion and promoting universal access.
Regional initiatives highlighted in the Action Plan should help Pacific Island Countries and Territories improve through economies of scale and also provide support in other areas that individual countries and territories cannot effectively address.
Six themes for action have been established to assist countries in their planning and implementation efforts.
- Leadership, governance, coordination and partnership.
- ICT policy, legislation.
- ICT Infrastructure and Universal Access.
- Cybersecurity and Human capacity building.
- Financing, Monitoring and Evaluation.
- Social Inclusion and Gender Equality.
Read in full: Pacific Regional ICT Strategic Action Plan for 2016 to 2020.
A mid-term review of the Plan will be conducted in mid-2018.
The CROP ICT Working Group provides a common platform through which CROP agencies and other relevant stakeholders can address key emerging and on-going regional priorities in the ICT sector in a collective, collaborative and coordinated manner.
The University of the South Pacific is the Chair of the Working Group.
The Forum Secretariat provides ongoing policy guidance to USP with regards to this work, and ensures that Forum Leaders remain apprised of ongoing progress, given the transformative potential of ICT.
The Working Group has a list of specific objectives which include:
- Provision of necessary coordination and advisory services through which any organisation working in the ICT area can be part of, to optimise collaborative environment and objectives in ICT for the region;
- Ensure that the Regional ICT Initiative that was endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2015 is successfully implemented with a sense of urgency;
- Act as permanent secretariat responsible for coordinating the different tasks done by the various players in the ICT sector;
- Review (from time to time) the developments of ICT in the region and monitor and evaluate growth of ICT in the Pacific;
- Advocate for deeper and faster development of ICTs in our region through coordination, appropriate technical and advisory services;
- Plan the regional dimensions of ICT development and encourage better coordination of ICT-related initiatives and plans;
- Understand policy development attitudes within the ICT ecosystem e.g. W3C, IETF, ICANN, ITU, APT and within Pacific Island Countries and Territories when invited to;
- Provide technical advice/ to Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat intergovernmental working groups participating in United Nations and other international negotiations and processes involving ICTs;
- Provide high level advisory services to Pacific Island Countries and Territories through their ICT Ministries or related Ministries when invited;
- Develop strategies for the growth of ICT in the Pacific;
- Provide regular reports of development of ICT in the Asia Pacific, Pacific and Globe that is relevant for Pacific countries and CROP members;
- Encourage Synergy of Engagement for members of the ICT ecosystem;
- To develop and maintain the CROP ICT Working Group Portal;
- To have a wider participation of the CROP ICT WG in other regional and international forum that will add value and enrich the work that the WG is doing and better promote collaboration; and
- Convene ICT Ministers’ Meeting as required.
Further information about the CROP Working Groups