September 12th, 2016

2016 Commonwealth ICT forum sees strong SIDS participation

NADI, FIJI, 12 SEPTEMBER 2016 – Delegations from small island developing states (SIDS) from the Caribbean and the Pacific regions are among the 29 countries taking part in the 2016 Forum of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) which started today in Denarau Island, Nadi, Fiji.

The event, which is held every year in a Commonwealth country took place last year in Nairobi, Kenya.

In a goodwill message during the opening of the event, Professor Umar Danbatta, Chairman of the CTO Council and Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission invited the participants to a spirit of collaboration: “The CTO is celebrating its 115th Anniversary this year.  Throughout its existence, it has remained an example of collaboration and partnerships. It is with the same spirit of collaboration and partnerships that I would like to invite all distinguished participants to engage in the discussions to follow over the next three days,” he said.

Held this year under the theme ICTs for Inclusive Growth, the three-day event hosted by the Fijian Government started with a panel of eminent persons to discuss government ICT policies for inclusive growth. The panel included:

  • Areewan Haorangsi, Secretary-General, Asia-Pacific Telecommunity
  • Honourable Joseph Bossano MP, Minister of Economic Development, Telecommunications & the GSB, Gibraltar
  • Honourable Willie Tokataake, Minister of Communications, Transport, Tourism & Industry Development, Kiribati
  • Honourable Afamasaga Lepuia’i Rico Tupa’i, Minister of Communication & Information Technology, Samoa
  • Honourable Monise Laafai, Minister of Communication & Information Technology, Tuvalu
  • Sharvada Sharma, Permanent Secretary for Communications & Information, Fiji

In his welcome address, Shola Taylor, Secretary-General of the CTO invited members of the Organisation to engage more effectively with SIDSs.

When it comes to ICTs, all Commonwealth countries, be they small or large, landlocked or not, rich or less rich have the same aspirations to build more inclusive e-economies. Despite their challenges, small island developing states are no different, and many of them are very innovative in their use of technology to increase financial inclusion or access to health and education, and so we should work more closely with them, especially on international issues,” said Mr Taylor who recently appointed Gisa Fuatai Purcell, a citizen of Samoa and a former divisional head at the International Telecommunication Union as the CTO’s Regional Advisor for the South Pacific.

In the Pacific region, countries such as Fiji are increasing their investment in network infrastructure.

“We are keen to share knowledge and experiences within the Commonwealth to better attract investment and expertise into our ICT sector,” said Fijian Attorney-General and Minister for Communications Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Samoa is committed to making ICTs available to all its citizens, and this Forum is proving useful in that we learn enormously from other countries’ experiences in achieving universal access,” said The Honourable Afamasaga Lepuia’i Rico Tupa’i from Samoa.

Key topics to be addressed through the 15 sessions of the Forum include:

  • International connectivity for the Pacific region
  • Inclusive multistakeholder Internet governance
  • Universal access and services
  • Over-the-top services
  • Technologies for inclusiveness

Present among international organisations and stakeholders at the event are:

  • Asia-Pacific Telecommunity
  • Asian Development Bank
  • Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific
  • Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers
  • International Telecommunication Union
  • Pacific Centre for the Environment & Sustainable Development
  • Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association
  • World Bank

Gibraltar has achieved consistent economic growth, currently the highest in the EU, by embracing ICT at the core of its economy as far back as 1988, and taking a holistic approach. The model can be a template for other small countries albeit adjusting for each country specific characteristics, and small countries can benefit enormously from embracing the new technology but ensuring that inclusiveness for all its citizens must take account of their function as producers as well as consumers,” said Minister Bossano.

Speaking on the role of the CTO since its creation, Areewan Haorangsi of Asia-Pacific Telecommunity said that the CTO has served as “an excellent platform to its membership in terms of applying ICTs to the development.”

The host country of the 2017 Forum will be announced during the annual meeting of the CTO Council to be held this week also.

For more information please contact Marcel Belingue, m.belingue@cto.int or +44 20 8600 3816.

About the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) is the oldest and largest Commonwealth intergovernmental organisation in the field of information and communication technologies. Although our history can be traced back to 1901 with the establishment of the Pacific Cable Board, the organisation has only existed in its present form as an intergovernmental treaty organisation since 1967. With a diverse membership spanning developed and least developed countries, small island developing states, and more recently also the private sector and civil society, the CTO aims to become a trusted partner for sustainable development for all through ICTs. More information about us here.