CAPTION: Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. File Photo.
Speaking at the 6th Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Forum, Attorney-General and Minister for Communications Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum stressed the importance of close regional cooperation to ensure that no one in the Pacific is left behind by the digital revolution.
“In the Pacific, we share the optimism of the rest of the developing world that information and communication technology can revolutionise the lives of our people through empowering them with information and opportunity – that it can break down barriers between those at the center and those on the margins – the divide between rich and poor, the divide between the urban and rural,” the AG said.
But he warned that if the benefits of ICT development were not spread equally to all within a country then the digital age could in fact create even greater disparities between those with access to affordable technology and those without.
He explained that, in the Pacific, commercially unviable markets and remote populations are common problems that demand innovative solutions.
“The matter of regional cooperation couldn’t be more important. Forums like this are crucial because they allow us to share experiences, discuss challenges, and spread knowledge that is unique to our respective countries,” the Attorney-General said.
The AG cited Tonga’s recent connection to the Southern Cross cable in Fiji as an example of Pacific island countries working together to improve ICT services for ordinary people.
But he also stressed that cooperation meant sharing ideas. He took the opportunity to update the forum on some of the innovative ways the Bainimarama Government was working to provide all Fijians access to affordable mobile and broadband services.
The AG discussed the Government’s market reforms, Universal Access Program, the recent auction of 4G spectrum, the “Telecentre” initiative, Fiji’s national broadband plan, and the development of a domestic internet exchange point, or IXP.
He also announced that the Government is finalising laws that will facilitate infrastructure sharing between service providers.
“This will mean that a company will be able to pay a fee to share another company’s pre-existing infrastructure – such as cell towers – rather than having to build their own. This will dramatically reduce operating costs for service providers and in turn should lead to better coverage and more choice for Fijians, especially those living in rural communities,” the AG said.
Country updates were also given by the Prime Minister of Tonga, Lord Tu’ivakano, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology from Samoa, Tuisugaletauá Ali’imalemanu Sofara Aveau, the Minister for Communications from Kiribati, Taberannang Timeon, and the Minister for Communication from Solomon Islands, Walter Folo Talu.