TONGA PRINCE TOUTS TELECOM AT GENEVA SUMMIT

By Johnson Honimae

GENEVA (SIBC, Dec 11) - A Pacific Islands leader has told the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) underway in Geneva, Switzerland that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have "enormous power to change economic structures and greatly contribute to economic prosperity and a better quality of life."

Addressing the Plenary session of the Summit, the Prime Minister and Minister of Communication for Tonga, Prince Ulukalala Lavaka Ata said ICTs can also enrich people's lives through providing greater choice and supporting social, welfare and cultural activities.

"Development of such a vision for ICT services and applications must be driven not only by local market parameters, but a recognition that the global nature of the information economy transcends national borders and interests."

He added that any related policy framework should be designed to deliver a step-function improvement in the provision of services and applications.

"It should be centered on the need to give every citizen access to ICT tools so that all individuals can share the benefits of the technology."

The Tonga Prime Minister told the international gathering that his country had adopted the same set of principles driven by an understanding that expanded connectivity will stimulate domestic growth and greater participation in the global economy.

He said this had resulted in the recent liberalization of the market and the introduction of competition in Tonga.

"Within a year of implementing these policy decisions, tariff for almost all services dropped significantly by more than 200 percent. Teledensity - the number of mobile subscribers and Internet users - have both doubled.”

The Tongan Prime Minister revealed that his country is currently designing a Universal Access System, "to ensure that any citizen who requires communications access, can obtain it. This also includes emergency access communication from uninhabited islands."

"Indeed, ICT has offered a historic and unprecedented opportunity not only to bridging the digital divide but also to place its potential at the service of humanity to make our world a better place."

Prince Ulukalala is the only Prime Minister from the Pacific Islands countries attending the Summit.

The Prime Minister of Samoa was earlier scheduled to also attend the Summit but he is now being represented by his Minister for Communications and Information Technology. Fiji's Foreign Affairs and Trade Relations Minister has also cancelled his attendance. The first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society will end this Friday with the world leaders adopting a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action.

December 16, 2003

Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp.: www.sibconline.com.sb

 

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