Posts tagged High Level Forum

PM BAINIMARAMA ADDRESS AT UNITED NATIONS

New York
September 23rd, 2013

Your Excellency, the President of the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Ambassador John Ashe.

Your Excellency the President of the International Organisation for South-South Cooperation, Ambassador Francis Lorenzo.

The Secretary General of the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, Doctor Hamadoun Toure.

Your Excellencies, cabinet ministers of UN member states, Permanent Representatives and other ambassadors.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It’s a great pleasure for me to address you at this important gathering in my capacity as Chair of the Group of 77 and Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji.

Let me begin by thanking Ambassador Ashe for his warm introduction and congratulate him on assuming the Presidency of the General Assembly.

He has become a familiar and very welcome presence in Fiji, having attended the G77 High Level Panel there in May and the Pacific Small Island Developing States Preparatory Conference in July.

I extend to him our sincere thanks for the interest that he has shown in the Pacific generally and, Fiji in particular. I also extend to him our best wishes as he presides over the General Assembly in its forthcoming session.

I would like to thank Ambassador Lorenzo and Doctor Toure – along with their respective staff – for their efforts to organise this meeting, that brings together representatives from more than 60 countries.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We all recognise the immense importance of securing international and South South cooperation to finance the introduction of Broadband technology throughout the developing world.

I’m pleased and proud to be here to recount the Fijian experience since our performance as a nation in this area has been specifically commended by the International Telecommunication Union.

In its last annual review of the delivery of ICT infrastructure and services to the populations of more than 150 countries, Fiji tied for the third largest improvement of any country, moving up five places to 88th.

The ITU attributed Fiji’s high ranking to strong growth in mobile broadband penetration; extension of 3G coverage to 95 per cent of the country; the development of the Pacific’s first national broadband plan; a commitment to making Internet access affordable; and the expansion of of e-Government services – putting the functions of the State online.

About 3 years ago we liberalised the telecommunications market and introduced actual competition for the first time. This has driven up access to mobile services and made mobile connectivity more affordable.

So in the middle of the Pacific, we have harnessed broadband technology to open up the world to our people.

We are ending their isolation, broadening their horizons and empowering them in a way that previous generations could never have imagined.

It has been an extraordinary revolution and a story I never get tired of telling. Because 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.

Two weeks ago, I was in northern Fiji opening five more of the Telecentres my Government has introduced to provide ordinary Fijians with free access to the Internet and other telecommunications services.

We now have fifteen of these Telecentres housed in predominantly rural schools around the country, providing free Internet access to almost 40-thousand people thus far – students during school hours and the wider community in the evenings and on weekends. And by the end of this year, we plan to have another five up and running.

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.

It is the door to a world of opportunity: For the child who suddenly realises the boundless opportunity to acquire knowledge. For the mother who, for the first time, has the opportunity to talk via Skype and webcam to a son serving as a UN peacekeeper. For the father who has the opportunity to scan and email a job application instead of relying on “snail mail” or a lengthy and costly journey to an urban center.

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.

They need not be living only in remote and inaccessible areas but can be in our midst, in the urban slums and informal settlements of most developing countries.

We must connect them, empower them, bring them the digital revolution as a fundamental cornerstone of our collective and holistic effort to help achieve our Millennium Development Goals.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Aside from the overriding imperative of empowerment, the Fijian experience establishes the fundamental importance of a number of key factors in the provision of Broadband.

*Affordability;
*Competition;
*A partnership between Government and the private sector;
*A fair, efficient and transparent regulatory framework; and,
*Zero tolerance for corruption

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 has been the only and immediate viable option.

The competition we’ve created in Fiji has driven down the cost of connectivity and has increased the quality of the services available to ordinary Fijians. And we’ve worked hard to remove systemic corruption and inefficiency, in telecommunications just as we have in the country as a whole.

Spectrum hogging, unplanned spectrum allocation and anti-competitive behavior before my Government took office has been replaced by a focused, well-planned and transparent system, positioning us for digitalization.

We recently concluded Fiji’s first ever spectrum auction that has opened the door for the introduction of 4G LTE technology.

We’ve been commended by many international stakeholders for the manner in which we conducted this open “ascending bid” auction and we have been invited to speak about our methodology at a number of international forums.

This auction means, that for the first time, we are getting a return for ordinary Fijians on their collective ownership of the airwaves while at the same time, providing them with the means to harness high speed Broadband. We have also zero rated duty on smart phones to give them even greater access.

We are not resting on our laurels. 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.

We’re also establishing, with input from ITU, an Internet Exchange Point in Fiji to bypass the current need to have Internet traffic processed offshore.

All this done to world’s best practice.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to briefly share Fiji’s recent Broadband journey. I would be happy to share this experience and any relevant knowledge in greater detail through our Ministry of Communications for the benefit of our fellow members.

And as always, I reaffirm Fiji’s commitment to South-South cooperation as a means of improving the lives of all our peoples.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.