Hon Minister MCIT Opening Speech Digital Pacific 2020

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Pastor Lenny Solomona,

Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

Dr. Simona Marinescu, UN Resident Coordinator

Mr. Jorn Sorensen, the UNDP Resident Representative

Your Excellency Ms. Sara Moriarty, Australian High Commissioner in Samoa,

Members of the Diplomatic Core,

Distinguished Delegates and Panelists both virtually and in-person and Virtual Guests from across the Region and abroad. Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I, on behalf of the Government and people of Samoa extend to you all our warmest greetings, and to welcome you all to the Digital Pacific Conference 2020 with the aim of, “Empowering the Pacific at Sustainable Development and Digital Transformation for all”.

First and foremost, I would like to extend a special note of gratitude to Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, Mr. Jorn Sorensen and the United Nations Development Programme, for again collaborating and partnering with the Government of Samoa, in hosting this second meeting as a follow-on from the first Digital Conference, which was held here in 2018.

I would also like to make special mention of the continued support from the Australia Government through the work of Your Excellency Ms. Sara Moriarty, Australian High Commissioner to Samoa and your Team at the Australian High Commission.

This conference would not have been made possible, without the assistance from our Development partners and International affiliations, in ensuring that we proceed with this conference despite the challenges therein with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Building on the 2018 Pacific Digital Conference, the 2020 Pacific Digital Conference aims to bring 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. It is therefore 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 for which everyone present can learn from.

For the Digital Pacific Conference 2020, we hope to share current digital transformation stories, best practice case studies and institutional challenges, increase knowledge and foster awareness of digital skills amongst all participants. The deliberations herein, will not only build on the work of the 2018 Digital Pacific Conference, but also do a stock-take of how far we, as a Region have progressed and put into action the outcomes of the first conference.

Given the alarming rate of connectivity and widespread proliferation of technology in the Pacific Region, an intergovernmental approach to closing the digital divide, by way of introducing national IDs and establishing e-Governance systems, amongst many other developments and initiatives, would significantly enhance varying opportunities for all through employment, business and improved living standards, through better access to services, at an accelerated pace. Taking a joint regional approach on these issues, will help us harmonize our systems and significantly minimize costs.

In the Pacific Region and abroad, the crucial social indicators of development such as education and health, remain priority areas for our respective Governments. For example, a high percentage of children across the Region are still unable to read and/or write, upon the completion of the primary school cycle, despite the investments in education. The quality and availability of health services varies wildly across the Region. Progress towards gender equality has been incredibly slow. For all of these challenges, there is great potential in the adoption of ICT tools, to enhance the quality of these services, allocate limited resources more efficiently, and promote greater gender equality.

Despite the immense advantages brought about by ICT, we are also aware of the challenges brought about by these advances in technology and therefore, our respective countries digital safety and security remains a top Government priority. I therefore urge all our Pacific Island partners, to make use of this exciting platform and to use our collective power to protect our nations and our communities from the effects of cybercrime, cyberterrorism and the like. Online perpetrators know no borders.

We, therefore need to work together within and across borders to ensure that we minimize the vulnerabilities there are, for the safety of our Region and respective Countries from these adversaries. This platform is one very good way to start.

Lastly, I would like to reiterate the support rendered by all our partners for this conference, and I look forward to continuing our partnership, as we embark on taking forward the outcomes of this meeting.

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, on this optimistic note, I wish you well on your deliberations during the course of this virtual forum and beyond, as we put into action the outcomes of this meeting.

It is my honor to now declare this Digital Pacific Conference 2020 open.

Thank You and Stay Safe

Fa’afetai