I am indeed very pleased to join you all for the Asia Pacific Telecommunity Ministerial Meeting 2019. Honourable Chair, allow me to commend the hosts, Singapore, for their meticulous organisation of this meeting and being our great host. Allow me also to commend the Correspondence Group for the Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting 2019 for the great work done in preparing documents for this important gathering today.
2 This year, marks 40 years of Asia Pacific Telecommunity. Congratulations to APT. Five years ago, the Brunei Darussalam statement was adopted, and we committed ourselves to building smart digital economy through ICT in the Asia Pacific.
3. Let me commend the APT for its long-standing successful efforts that has enhanced the Asia Pacific region’s influence on ICT policy-regulatory frameworks, which provides an enabling environment for us to build smart digital economy through ICT in our region.
Vanuatu and the Asia Pacific region
4 Like many small island developing states, Vanuatu faces increasingly complex challenges: the increasing impacts of climate change, a growing population; the vast ocean that separate our 82 or so small islands that has strain our capabilities in the distribution of services; limited resources in terms of energy, food and water; increasing demand for infrastructure like roads, airports, bridges; increasing demand for schools and health services reaching out to the 80% of the population in the rural communities; and ever more increase activities of natural disasters. These are common challenges faced by many of the Pacific Island nations. We need a more sustainable model of development, more innovative ways of harnessing our resources, and better ways to fulfil the rising expectations of our population.
5 The proliferation of ICT and the pervasive use of social media in our lives has generated calls for greater people involvement in decisions, and greater accountability on the part of governments; but it also represents an opportunity for us to engage our citizens, residents and businesses in innovative and meaningful ways. Whilst Vanuatu appreciate the greater benefits that social media can bring to us, our policies, regulations and legislations have to be shaped in ways and manners that protect our values and principles.
6 Our part of the answer to this opportunity is the development of ecosystems that are built around intelligent applications, innovative practices and integrated systems. This is a vision Vanuatu is committed to – through its National Digital Governance Roadmap. If we get it right, we will be able to deliver a unique experience to our citizens, residents and businesses.
Digital Community for Vanuatu
7 How will a Digital Community look for Vanuatu with a diverse cultural background and over 105 languages spoken? What will living in a Digital Community mean for citizens, residents, business and Government?
8 A Digital Community relies on digital technologies such as mobile phones, the Internet and e-mails to communicate, network and disseminate information. Vanuatu set a very high target of 98% population coverage for voice and broadband in our Universal Access Program. However, with the continuous complex challenges we faced, we need to adapt and refocus our programs to ensure that we maintain focus in delivering on telecommunication/ICTs that is accessible but also affordable to everyone. For example, the recent evacuation of the entire population of an island to another island has posed a great challenge to the Government in ensuring that the same level of coverage is provided at the expected quality.
9 Honourable Chair, Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates, unlocking the potential of digital literacy presents opportunity for citizens, residents and businesses to be engaged in innovative and meaningful ways allowing Governments to provide more responsive, citizen-centric public services. Based on the agreed and approved information provided by all stakeholders involved in the Universal Access Program, including the Government, a good majority of government schools, health clinics and other institutions are covered by high speed broadband. Feedback received from those sites that are operational has been positive; with students and the community being provided with basic skills training and students using the technology as part of the school curriculum. Demand for use of the sites is high, and is anticipated to increase considerably as more online Government services are developed and rolled out.
Digital Capacity Building
10 Honourable. Chair, whilst we acknowledge the immensurable benefits that Digital Transformation can bring on one hand, on the other hand we know that to realise these benefits it requires individual state to build their digital capacity.
11 Vanuatu launches its Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) last year in June. The mandate of CERT Vanuatu is to provide awareness to its constituents on cyber threats and potential attacks. CERT Vanuatu has engage in Memorandum of Understanding with various CERTs within the Pacific region including Australia and New Zealand to exchange information on cyber threats and attacks. This is an important milestone for Vanuatu in its digital capacity building.
12 Vanuatu commends the APT through platforms as the Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Conference as a perfect platform where leaders can collaborate with business, industries, development partners, to discuss how digital transformation can be realised through an increased focus on digital capacity building.
13 Hence, Vanuatu places its support to APT to enhance collaboration between APT Members, development partners and financial institutions to enable an improved platform whereby member countries will continue to seek opportunities for building a strategic partnership in the needed areas of digital transformation.
Towards a Connected Future for Vanuatu
14 With the rapid connectivity rate in the Pacific region, Vanuatu sees the opportunities and benefits of a domestic cable that will boost digital transformation the reach of a digital community. We are also looking into building redundancy to our first International subsea cable with a second International subsea cable.
15 As such, in reaching for this vision of a Connected Future for Vanuatu, we see much potential for us to collaborate with our partners in the region. We must be open to learning from one another, and be entrepreneurial in collaborating to leverage and multiply on our individual successes.
16 Vanuatu sees clearly the opportunities that a Digital Community can deliver. Yet, there are also serious challenges. Vanuatu stands ready to celebrate its rich culture and its diverse language using ICT. In reaping the potential benefits of ICT and guarding against the associated risks, we need to work collaboratively with our partners in the region to learn from each other, and to help shape the right environment that will allow us all to harness ICT and the Digital Community for a sustainable growth.
17. In closing, allow me Honourable Chair, Excellencies, and Distinguished Delegates, to invite all of you to Vanuatu for the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators from 9 to 12 July 2019. I look forward to welcoming you in Port Vila,
18 I thank you Honourable Chair.