PHOTO: The Attorney-General with HE, Group Captain, Anudith Nakornthap, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Thailand.
Attorney-General and Minister for Communications Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has reaffirmed the Bainimarama Government’s commitment to spreading the benefits of the digital age to all Fijians including those living in remote and isolated places.
Speaking at the ITU Telecom World Conference in Bangkok yesterday, the Attorney-General said that connecting everyone in Fiji to mobile and Internet services was an imperative for Government.
“If we don’t include those at the margins of society within the great innovation and the great leap forward of our ICT reforms, we risk further marginalising the marginalised and actually creating bigger disparities between our people,” he said.
The Attorney-General explained that one of the problems was that in certain areas of the country service providers consider the potential return on investment to be too low to warrant the high cost and inconvenience of building infrastructure there.
To combat this, he outlined two initiatives that will be unrolled in 2014 to promote the construction of telecommunications infrastructure in remote areas that currently have no service.
The first is an initiative to subsidise the cost of constructing infrastructure at designated locations.
“We have called for expressions of interest from companies that want to participate in this program and expect to have contracts awarded by early next year,” he said.
Secondly, Government is finalising laws that will facilitate infrastructure sharing between service providers.
“This means that a company will be able to pay a fee to share another company’s infrastructure – such as a communications tower – rather than having to build their own. This will dramatically reduce the costs of building new infrastructure and will in turn lead to expanded coverage, better coverage and more choice for Fijians,” he said.
The Attorney-General also recognised that the expansion of mobile and Internet services cannot be an isolated exercise and must go hand-in-hand with the provision of basic services, such as water, electricity and roads.