HON. PM BAINIMARAMA’S SPEECH AT THE LAUNCH OF TELECOM FIJI LIMITED’S CONNECT 4G+ TECHNOLOGY

Honourable Ministers;
Members of the Diplomatic Corp;
TFL Board, CEO, Management and Staff;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

Just under one year ago, I had the pleasure of joining many of you to launch the TFL wireless broadband service. And today, after notching up another year of successful ICT development in Fiji, I am delighted to be with you all to launch another milestone in Fiji’s ICT expansion, TFL’s new Connect 4G Plus technology. A project that stands as a tremendous achievement in itself and as a glowing reminder of how far we have come in building ICT capacity and expanding service offerings throughout our islands.

This past year caps off a decade of my Government’s targeted investment campaign and common sense regulation in our ICT sector that has led to a record numbers of Fijians accessing record levels of ICT service quality. We’ve achieved that by creating an environment that fosters ICT innovation and competition. We’ve harnessed the spirit of free enterprise, and made it work in Fiji, while also providing a foundation of capable, modern infrastructure for our private sector partners to build upon. And that has proven to be a recipe for success.

Just this week, Fiji had the honour of hosting the 2016 Commonwealth Telecommunications
Organisation Forum and Council Meeting – another prestigious recognition of the strides we have made in connecting our people to each other, and serving as the regional hub for ICT development throughout the Pacific.

No one can argue against the immense benefits of ICT development. By facilitating communication, ICTs impact every aspect of economic development, streamlining the delivery of essential services and improving the flow of vital information across every sector. This new Connect 4G Plus will bring an even higher level of internet service to Fiji that will give Fijians the ability to upload and download content at unprecedented speeds. Our people will be able to browse faster, work harder and enjoy convenient services such as e-banking and streaming online-television.

My Government will be there, every step of the way, as we work to expand the reach of this technology and spread the benefits of 4G Plus as widely as possible. So this is indeed an occasion worth celebrating, but in doing so, I would be remiss not to address some of the pitfalls of such rapid ICT development.

I’m talking specifically about the detrimental effect that new, advanced technologies can have in widening socio-economic gaps in Fijian society or the digital divide. The gaps between the rich and poor, between the uneducated and the educated and between those in urban centres and those in isolated areas – gaps that my Government is committed to eliminating.

When only certain groups obtain the advantages of new technologies, they leave our more vulnerable people behind. I’ve talked many times about this “digital divide” and about the work my Government is carrying out to ensure equitable access to ICT technologies.
We are subsidizing the expansion of digital television services for low-income families. We are continuing the consumer-friendly agenda to keep the cost of mobile service low and competitive. And we have zero rated duty on ICT devices and technologies. In short, we are knocking down the barriers that had prevented many of our citizens from participating in our ICT revolution, so that every step we take into the future is a step taken together.

Congratulations to TFL on the completion of this project. As Fiji’s 100% locally owned telecommunications company, I am always particularly proud to see you do so well. Thank you for your work and for your continued commitment to the development of ICTs in Fiji.

ICTs, and their wide range of applications, form the backbone of our economic development. They are one of the most effective tools my Government wields in improving our citizens engagement with each other and with the rest of the world. Our commitment to sector remains unwavering, and we look forward to maintaining the spirit of co-operation with private enterprises and organisations that has taken us this far, TFL included.

I now have much pleasure in launching TFL’s new Connect 4G Plus technology. I wish you all a pleasant evening.

Vinaka Vakalevu.