In a keynote address to the High Level Forum on South-South Cooperation for Sustainable Development – Investing in Broadband, the Prime Minister recounted what he termed “an extraordinary revolution” taking place in Fiji as more and more of the country gains access to affordable broadband.
“Whatever the marvels of the technology involved, it is the positive effect on the lives of our people that makes Fiji an illuminating case study,” the Prime Minister said.
Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), praised the Prime Minister Bainimarama in his address as ‘one of the ITU’s strongest supporters in its work to expand access to broadband and Internet services to all people.”
The meeting is one of several being held during the period of the United Nations General Assembly and brings together political leaders and technical experts concerned with extending broadband’s reach throughout the developing world.
“There are millions of such people across the world who require our assistance to bring them affordable access to Broadband – to increase their opportunities, improve their lives and make them a global citizen,” the Prime Minister said. “We must connect them, empower them, bring them the digital revolution as a fundamental cornerstone of our collective and holistic effort to achieve our Millennium Development Goals.”
The Prime Minister offered practical advice based on Fiji’s experience. He urged nations embarking on a broadband development programme to make broadband affordable, encourage competition, develop a partnership between Government and the private sector, institute a regulatory framework that is fair, efficient and transparent, and have zero tolerance for corruption, especially when it comes to spectrum allocation.
“The competition we’ve created has driven down the cost of connectivity,” he said. “And we’ve worked hard to remove systemic corruption and inefficiency in telecommunications, just as we have in the country as a whole.”
The Prime Minister asserted that Fiji expects broadband access to be a social equalizer, helping to eliminate the disparities between rural and urban residents, helping to lift the poor, and opening connections among people.
“For a small island developing state like our own, strung out over vast distances of ocean, high speed cable access was neither affordable nor practical, so mobile broadband was the only viable and immediate option,” he said.
The Prime Minister highlighted the development of Telecentres around the country as a means of reaching remote communities. There are now 15 Telecentres in the country, he said, providing access to 40,000 people so far.
“I get a huge thrill from opening these facilities because of the delighted looks on the faces of ordinary Fijians as a door is suddenly opened to them,” he said. “It is the door to a world of opportunity.”
But there is more work to be done.
“We are not resting on our laurels,’ the Prim e Minister said. “Our goal is 100 per cent coverage through a Universal Service Access initiative that will offer subsidies to telecommunications companies to put infrastructure in very remote areas.
“The hope is to reach every Fijian, because we all know the risk of not doing so. If we do not spread the advantages of the digital age to all, then technology will actually create even greater disparities.”