Statement by the Prime Minister; Hon. Fiame Naomi Mataafa for SIDS Solutions Forum 2021.
Taumeasina Island Resort: Monday 30 August 2021.
Heads of State and Government
Ms. Xiangjun Yao, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Pacific,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I congratulate FAO for this Forum especially the SIDS Solution Platform launched this morning. I believe that our gathering this week and the SIDS specific solutions this event will promote and seek; can help deliver some of the promises for SIDS as articulated in the SAMOA Pathway. In particular, solutions on fostering entrepreneurship and innovation; accessing appropriate, affordable and modern technologies and increasing connectivity and the use of information and communications technology for the benefit of our people.
Our unique circumstances as small islands developing states, coupled with the current COVID19 impacts and ongoing climate change threats, call for transformational SIDS-specific homegrown solutions. The COVID19 situation, forcing border lockdowns and State of Emergency restrictions further emphasize the importance of digitalization for SIDS, in order to build resilience and meet the sustainable development goals.
Samoa will continue to prioritize the need to invest in digital technologies and to promote a digital economy. This is key to stimulating business opportunities in e-commerce and e-services, as well as increasing productivity and growth in more traditional sectors such as agriculture and tourism. We underscore how investment in innovation and digitalization for Samoa, can enable more efficient delivery of health and education; improve connectivity between rural and urban communities; advance economic empowerment for women and youth; and assist with more efficient public service delivery.
To fully realize the benefits of a digital economy, Samoans must be able to connect with and trust the technology; an enabling business environment must be in place, and investment in education, skills, and digital literacy is paramount. The availability of fast, reliable and affordable internet services to government, the business community and the public is crucial.
Our vision for an inclusive financial system means focusing on promoting digital financial services and institutional innovations, such as branchless banking and mobile money to increase the access points, especially in rural areas. We have successfully linked mobile money wallet(s) to bank accounts and are seeing the rise in the use of such services. People can now pay water and electricity bills, check bank balance as well as shop online. This is an important breakthrough also for our women and youth.
With today’s current COVID situation and restrictions, the ability to send and receive money to and from overseas on mobile phones has been critical for our people. Family overseas can buy food and groceries for families in Samoa, pay electricity bills or top up mobile phone credits. Facilitated capability to carry out these simple tasks not only impact on the everyday lives of our people, but also provides needed business for our private sector.
In the agriculture and health sectors, we are investing in digital solutions such as Apps for contact tracing or for information sharing between farmers. We recently launched our e-Health System to improve medical record keeping and strengthen health information and vital statistics. This is an important step in our response to COVID19 and building on the lessons learnt from the measles epidemic. More importantly, as we expect increasing health security threats, this e-Health System will be vital to protecting the health and wellbeing and enhance the resilience of our population.
With the COVID19 pandemic lockdown, our Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa focused research on alternative options for high demand imported foods such as flour, using breadfruit. Traditional knowledge was applied to consider food security options and to support the Agriculture sector in exploring food preservation practices.
You will also hear some excellent examples of homegrown solutions from innovators in Samoa during Session three this afternoon, on the use of innovative ideas; and digital technologies in the food, agriculture and environment sector.
Such initiatives and solutions need to be enhanced and upscaled to garner wider benefits. It is obvious that there is untapped potential of digitalization and innovation in our SIDS countries. We should not lose sight of the fact that, while pursuing these home-grown solutions, we do not end up creating disparity between those who can and cannot access and afford these solutions. But, I am convinced, that embracing technology and knowledge sharing for our people, will be powerful drivers for change, innovation and welfare.