Digital Pacific Conference 2020 Highlights Need for Digital Transformation Post COVID-19

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Digital Pacific Conference 2020 participants

Apia, Samoa – The Digital Pacific Conference 2020 got underway today, highlighting the critical need for digital transformation as the way forward to recovery, post COVID-19.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are co-hosting the Digital Pacific Conference 2020, with the support of the Australian Government.

The conference provides a participatory platform for constructive debate and dialogue on the theme – “Empowering the Pacific: Sustainable Development and Digital Transformation for All.”

“Building on the 2018 Pacific Digital Conference, the Pacific Digital Conference 2020 brings together influential development thinkers, practitioners and digital leaders in the region, to deliberate not only on matters of regional and national importance, but more so to tap into developments on the international arena, for which Small Islands States can capitalize on,” said the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Toeolesulusulu Lepuia’i Rico Tupai, who applauded the conference going ahead despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Samoa’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology

“It is encouraging for me as Minister of Communications and Information Technology, to see experts and solution providers, government officials, private sector representatives, civil society organizations and youth representatives partaking in this conference, to share their own experiences and perspectives from which everyone present can learn.”

“If there is one thing COVID-19 has brought to the fore starkly now more than ever, it’s the need for digital transformation and innovation. The fact that this conference is still able to be held during a time of shutdown the world over, and with most of the key speakers joining virtually, is a testament to the power of technology to allow people to continue to connect and continue to live life with some semblance of normalcy”.

Joining virtually from UNDP Headquarters in New York to provide opening remarks, was the Assistant Secretary-General, and UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Kanni Wignaraja.

“At this critical time, as the COVID pandemic has accelerated the uptake of digital solutions, tools and services across the Pacific mitigating its socio-economic consequences, the global transition to digital societies is happening right before our very eyes,” said Ms. Wignaraja.

“The message is crystal clear: Digital transformation is our pathway to recovery, and this journey is built on cross-sectoral partnerships among a grand coalition of actors forming the digital ecosystem, including governments, the private sector, academia, media and development partners, working with the people and for the people. This is the reason we are all here today. The Digital Pacific Conference 2020 is a forum for facilitating partnerships, SIDS-SIDS cooperation and knowledge-sharing to complement the Pacific experience.”

The three-day Conference combines individual expert presentations, panel and roundtable discussions, parallel sessions for Youth Co:Lab as well as a Tech showcase offering opportunities for engagement and match-making between public sector delegates and private sector exhibitors.

Australia’s High Commissioner to Samoa, HE Sarah Moriarty said the new norms created by the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted limitations to Pacific Island nation capacities.

Her Excellency Sarah Moriarty (right)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed brought a new normal into our everyday lives and how we live, how we connect with family and friends, how we do business and how we work. What was the normal of face to face meetings and contact is being challenged and restrictions under the new normal have challenged us to explore new methods of doing business. This has caused an increased usage of ICT products and services. This provides opportunities but it also exposes vulnerabilities in Pacific Island countries and territories’ ICT capabilities and capacities,”

“Pacific island countries and territories need to be efficient in their responses to COVID, and to develop strategies and mechanisms to ensure that their economies and communities are not further marginalized due to the impacts of the pandemic.”

It is envisaged that this conference – which is a follow-up from the first Digital Conference in 2018 – will lead to the establishment of a regional network of both public service institutions and the private sector, facilitating knowledge sharing, advocacy and solutions exchange, which in turn could be contextualised for the national setting.