FORUM COMMUNICATIONS POLICY MINISTERIAL MEETING

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PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji Islands

 

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Conference Center
Suva, Fiji
April 17, 2002

OPENING ADDRESS by Honorable Savenaca Draunidalo Fiji’s Minister for Works, Telecommunications, Energy, Road Transport & Shipping

Honorable Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, Honorable Ministers, Mr. Hamadoun Tuore, Director General ITU/BDT, Mr. Amerendra Narayan, Executive Director of the APT, Distinguished Officials, Representatives of multilateral and international organizations, Ladies and Gentlemen. Ni sa bula vinaka.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Suva and to this all-important meeting. We will during this meeting discuss national and regional issues including technology, policy, governance and regional cooperation.

Since our last Forum Communications Policy Meeting in April 1999, the world has entered the dawn of the information era. For us here in Fiji, since then, we have become part of a state of the art Southern Cross Cable Network, we have partly privatized our state-owned telecommunications company and merged the operations and management of telecommunications under a holding company. We migrated to our new seven-digit telephone numbering scheme last month. And we are now reviewing our telecommunications pricing structure and will take steps this year to restructure our existing regulatory framework. I can continue to enumerate other developments in our telecommunications sector, but what I really intend to portray is that unprecedented events resulting in major changes have, and I believe, will befall us as we progress through this information age. Therefore, in my view, it will be a challenge for us as leaders in this important industry, to keep an open mind to the evolving world environment and, where we find it necessary, to boldly make changes in our local scenes for the benefit of our societies.

Our government is now focusing on ICT development and growth, and we have compiled our draft ICT Development Policy that is currently being put through a consultation process within the government machinery. I note that a major item that we will consider at this meeting is a proposed Pacific Islands ICT Policy and Strategy. I am confident that there will be aspects in the associated document that we can incorporate into our draft national ICT policy.

We do not doubt that our social and economic development and growth now and into the future will become more reliant on ICT. And if generating benefits to our societies and peoples is something that we desire, then harnessing the potential in the ICT to do this is something that we should commit to.

As there is a starting point in every initiative, then in relation to ICT, from a regional perspective, starting with a Pacific Islands ICT Policy and Strategy is certainly a good start.

In developing our policies, strategies and plan of actions for the future, may I highlight the fact that we have in our society a very essential component for the future, in fact they will be the ones who will live on into the future – our youth.

To get them to become involved and be part of our major developments today and plans for the future and allow them the opportunity to have a degree of ownership in their destiny is possibly the best gift we can offer them today. The incorporation of this aspect in our national ICT development policy is therefore necessary in view of this. It can become a legacy we will leave behind that they will, as a result, proudly inherit and appreciate. The challenge for us, therefore, is in facilitating their involvement in national development.

There is another equally important group in our society that today appears to be, comparatively, disadvantaged when we consider gender representation in the telecommunications sector – our women. We need not look far to find proof of this; the very composition of this forum reveals this. The mainstreaming of women into the various activities and levels not only in the sector, but also at other levels and national activities has therefore, become necessary. And in view of this, we will need to ensure that the policies that we develop today also essentially include this aspect.

I thought I would highlight these aspects, as they are very relevant to the situation we face in the region. However, we are not the only ones that are affected in this regard, as the entire international family also has this awareness and has mustered initiatives to address it.

In concluding, I thank the Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat for the invitation extended to me to open our Forum Communication Policy Ministers’ Meeting, and under standard protocol, I now invite the Prime Minister of Samoa, Honorable Tuilakepa Sailele Malielegaoi to chair our meeting. Vinaka vakalevu.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj 

Ulafala Aiavao Media Adviser Forum Secretariat Private Bag Suva, Fiji

Tel: (679) 220 220 Mob: (679) 998 674 Fax: (679) 305 554 Email: UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj  Web: www.forumsec.org.fj  Mirror site: http://chacmool.sdnp.undp.org/pacific/forumsec/default1.htm 

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