India To Establish Information Technology 'Centre Of Excellence' In Cook Islands

USP center a way of enhancing Cook Islands-India relations

By Richard Moore 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 25, 2017) – The government of India is looking to establish an India-Cook Islands Centre of Excellence in Information Technology on Rarotonga.

And Finance minister Mark Brown, who is in Fiji to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a senior Indian government minister, says it will be housed at the University of the South Pacific.

“India is looking to deliver, initially, an in-house programme that would be great for us because we can have more Cook Islanders participating because it is housed here.”

Brown says the centre is part of an Indian move to strengthen the bilateral relations with Cook Islands.

“They are looking to do this by supporting our country, developing fellowships for Information and Communications Technology and building capability of our people in using technology.

“Particularly with the internet cable project starting to come to fruition and more bandwidth going to be available and with the growing use of technology India sees itself as one of the leaders of IT globally and wants to establish some sort of support programme here for us.

“They’ve got a centre of IT Excellence in Mumbai and they’re willing to take on Cook Islanders to train up and have them qualify through ICT centres over there.”

Brown will meet with Indian government representatives while at this week’s India-Pacific Islands Sustainable Development Conference in Suva, Fiji. 

“This conference I am going to is building on that - to grow this opportunity for ICT capacity building.”

Brown says data centres are always looking for places to store information.

“A number of businesses are looking at diversifying the global locations where they house their data centres.

“Basically they are looking outside of major cities, safe from earthquakes and civil unrest.

“So a country like us in the middle of the Pacific, fairly secure and can provide that service - that looks attractive to a number of countries.”

He says that makes for a good opportunity.

“But for me greatest opportunity is at the recent UNESCO conference I attended on ICT and education where a Stamford University professor said 65 per cent of school students today will be doing jobs that have yet to be invented, because of technology.

“For us to remain in that global opportunity that ICT presents we have to be connected, we have to be part of it.

“The undersea internet cable is a big investment for us, but the opportunities it will bring will more than make up for the costs.

“We are right up there with 29 other countries, but their issues include providing access to bandwidth and ICT to their populations. For some of them only 30 to 40 per cent have access to the internet.

“We have 100 per cent coverage.”

But Brown says the Cook Islands has to bring the cost of bandwidth down.

“We will do this through the cable.

It is expensive providing bandwidth through satellite, but the cable is a priority for us. It’s as simple as that.”

He says the government is the owner of the cable and “we would make it as open and accessible to all sectors at the best possible price”.

“We are not there to maximise profits, it is there to facilitate.

We would see users generate the economic return that the government would benefit from through indirect means - VAT and so on.”

Cook Islands News
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