FORUM COMMUNICATIONS MEETING BEGINS

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SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT April 21, 1999

A regional meeting on communication policies opened today in Fiji with a call for South Pacific Forum countries to urgently address the many complex issues relating to the global information infrastructure.

"The explosive growth of the Internet, and the many applications on it, create an enormous challenge for Forum members which include legal, trade, institutional, social and cultural aspects as well as the technology," said the Deputy Secretary General of the South Pacific Forum Secretariat, Mr. Iosefa Maiava.

"The opportunity this week is to explore views and look at some of the constraints in telecommunication and communication policy in the region. We see regional cooperation as the best way forward in this new and complex area," he said.

Two days of seminars and a one day workshop at the Forum Secretariat will focus on issues in the telecommunications sector. This will provide further input to a meeting on Saturday, April 24 of Forum Officials, before Forum Telecommunications Ministers meet on Monday, April 26 to consider an Action Plan and A Vision for the Pacific Information Economy.

Officials from the 16 Forum member states are attending as well as representatives of the International Telecommunications Union, Asia Pacific Telecommunity, World Bank, regional agencies and non-government organizations. The private sector has been encouraged to participate as they will take the lead in implementing the new technology.

The presentations will cover key issues, such as the cost of telecommunications, the regulatory approach, education, competition and what type of involvement in the information super-highway is possible for the island countries. Applications such as electronic commerce, distance education and tele-medicine will be displayed.

"By this time next week we hope to have agreement, at a ministerial level, on a wide range of strategies to advance the economic and social development of the region through policy reform in the communication - information sector," Mr. Maiava said.

For additional information, contact:

John Townsend Economic Infrastructure Adviser TEL: 679-220 212 E-mail: johnt@forumsec.org.fj

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