Posts tagged ICT

PM Bainimarma’s Keynote Address at The High Level Forum on South-South Cooperation for Sustainable Developoment – Investing in Broadband

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.

Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama’s Dinner Speech at South-South Forum in Hong Kong

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

After the wonderful hospitality shown to the participants of this Forum, I would like to thank our hosts for all they have done to make us feel at home.

Allow me to extend a special word of thanks to the Honorable Mr. CY Leung, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, for his strong support of this Forum. The Chief Executive is a leader in efforts to advance the ICT agenda in the Asia-Pacific Region and we all look forward to future collaboration with him.

To the organisers, we extend our thanks for their time, effort and detailed preparations.

And finally, to the participants: your productive contributions during today’s discussions have added depth and insight that has benefited us all. Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

This High-level Forum has certainly achieved its objective of showcasing ways that technology can improve the lives of our peoples. And it’s been an opportunity for us to forge new relationships – with other Governments, and with members of the private sector.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We must resist the tendency to see the developed world as the source of all innovation and ideas. This is not the case. As nations of the South, there is much we can offer each other, in the true spirit of solidarity, self-reliance and interdependence.

There is a huge amount of innovation taking place in the developing world, especially in the ICT sector. Each country here has unique insights and valuable experience to share. In this context, South-South cooperation becomes an avenue through which we can spread technological progress amongst ourselves, and work to empower our peoples.

South-South cooperation cannot be an abstract concept or an empty slogan; it must be a means for reaching all of our peoples; and for us as nations to share information on new technology.

On behalf of the Fijian Government and people, I pledge Fiji’s full support for this great effort to share wisdom and experience.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must also acknowledge the importance of partnership with the private sector, to learn from its expertise and best practices. We should resist the urge to limit our relationships to traditional partners. Rather, we should actively seek new, dynamic and productive opportunities and forge new alliances and partnerships, wherever they may present themselves.

In Fiji, technology is one of the cornerstones of my Government’s reform agenda. We believe that strategic partnership with the private sector, across a broad front, is the best way to deliver quality, value, and transparency to our people.

Today’s Forum has been an illuminating experience. Looking ahead, the Chairman’s summary, which will be submitted during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in September of this year, will ensure that our outcomes will serve as the foundation for future discussions that will promote success, stimulate growth and create wealth and prosperity for our nations and our peoples.

I wish you all an enjoyable evening and a safe return trip home.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.

Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama’s Speech at South-South Forum in Kong Kong

Bula vinaka and good morning to you.

When I was invited to address this distinguished forum, I was told that it would centre on investments in new innovative solutions for job creation and sustainable urbanization in the developing countries using the most advanced technology in the context of South-South cooperation.

Today, I would like to speak to you not only about South-South cooperation; certainly we are all committed to it, and it will define all of our discussions. I want to speak to you about people. In the final analysis, everything we do at this conference, everything we discuss, every practical solution we develop is toward one goal—to benefit people. South-South cooperation is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. And that end is the raising up of our people.

Our collective agenda must seek to tackle the causes of poverty, exclusion and inequality, so that neither income, nor gender, nor disability, nor geography will exclude anyone from the benefits of development. We need to connect people in rural and urban areas to the modern economy through quality infrastructure – electricity, irrigation, roads, ports and, of course, telecommunications.

Information technology—and by that I especially mean broadband technology—may represent the greatest promise we have to take a leap forward toward that goal. It can help us end the isolation that many of our people experience.

In the developing world, many people live in remoteness because of difficult terrain, poor infrastructure, and distance from urban centers. But others suffer from the same remoteness while living right in our midst—in urban slums and informal settlements that lack basic necessities.

South-South cooperation cannot simply be a slogan, yielding more agreements among states and more calls for cooperation; it must produce an environment in which people of the developing world see possibilities, seize opportunities, and create new wealth.

South-South cooperation cannot be an abstract concept for relations among governments; it must be an avenue for reaching all of our peoples; and for us as nations to share information on technological advances that promote success and stimulate growth.

Here perhaps is the most important point: there is a great deal of innovation coming today from the nations of the developing world. Many countries among us are actually quite advanced technologically, particularly in computers, information technology and telecommunications. We need to spread that innovation among ourselves.

The UN Secretary-General’s report on science, technology and innovation called for establishing a globally effective mechanism to make the sharing and transfer of technology easier and more effective. The Group of 77 believes this mechanism should seriously address the technology needs of developing countries, including capacity building and the development, transfer and dissemination of environmentally sound technologies.

Improved technological capacity will make developing countries better economic partners not only for each other, but as partners for developed countries as well. It will spur stronger growth, build more capacity, and spawn more innovation.

By working together, we will produce greater equality within each country and help reduce inequality between the developed and developing worlds.

Distinguished delegates and guests,

We cannot wait. There are things we can do now, and we should do them—now. We can establish economic policies that make it easier for all people—regardless of their economic situation, regardless of the hurtles of geography—to have access to new technology that will change their lives.

We must invite the private sector to join us in engineering solutions to build our technological infrastructure. We must share our knowledge with our neighbors. And we must invest in education.

For us in Fiji, the decision was simple: We have committed ourselves to mobile technology as a means of truly uniting our country – of bridging the digital divide between urban and rural, rich and poor.

Our neighbors in the South Pacific confront many of the same challenges. We are a very tight-knit community, and Fiji has certain advantages that allow us to serve as a telecommunications hub in our part of the world. Those advantages include a strong infrastructure, major universities, a robust private sector, and well educated population. We are happy to share these advantages and the knowledge we have accumulated with our neighbors.

Ladies and gentlemen, Fiji is a nation of some 900,000 people who live on 110 of our 330 islands. For us, connecting such a dispersed population is absolutely essential, and wireless technology has been our indispensable tool. Access to this technology empowers our people, improves education, provides better access to government services, and helps us save lives during natural disasters such as cyclones and tsunamis.

We have extended mobile coverage – including 3G – to 95 per cent of Fiji. This has been a boon to Fijian business, and it has made Fiji attractive for foreign investors. We have adopted modern policies to encourage private investment and delivery of wireless service. We have also reduced our corporate tax to 20 per cent, which encourages all investment, including in telecommunications.

But we haven’t just given opportunities to businesses through incentives and lower taxes. We have opened the telecommunications market to real competition, which has made mobile connectivity affordable and, of course, increased penetration. We have also eliminated all duty on smartphones to make them more affordable for ordinary Fijians.

Next week, we will conduct Fiji’s first-ever auction of frequencies on the radio spectrum, beginning a process that will make 4G internet access available to all Fijians. The auction will encourage competition and attract foreign investment. The process is transparent, following global best practices.

Our approach has been holistic. Government alone cannot extend broadband access. It has to create the right conditions for the private sector. Then government can fill the gaps that the private sector cannot fill. As part of my government’s Universal Access Program, network coverage – including 3G – will continue to expand to areas that currently have poor coverage or no coverage at all. Our goal is 100 per cent coverage. But we know that the private sector cannot do all of this profitably, so the Fijian government will offer subsidies for service to remote areas, and we are financing the subsidy by placing a small levy on international incoming calls.

I am particularly proud of our initiative to improve access to the Internet for poorer Fijians living in remote areas.  We have set up “Telecentres” in rural schools throughout Fiji, to give access not only to school children but to all those Fijians living in the surrounding communities, including many who have never had access to the Internet before. We expect to provide new Internet access to more than 60,000 Fijians – including 5,000 schoolchildren – by the end of this year.

In Fiji, as in many nations of the South, our population is quite young, so it is important to create as much growth and opportunity as possible right now. They are the generation that will seize the advantages we create today. And they are the generation for whom we must set the stage for tomorrow’s opportunities. Information technology is critical to meet this demographic challenge.

Distinguished delegates and guests, it is a myth that we must depend fully on the developed countries for technology. We have wisdom and experience to share. We know how to overcome challenges. We have the ability to help one another achieve our development goals.

In closing, I pledge that you can count on Fiji to do our part. My Government is proud to be immersed in this great effort to share wisdom and experience among developing nations.

We must act wisely and work together. If we do, technology will propel us into the future, bring greater prosperity to our nations and a higher standard of living for all of our peoples.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you very much.