PM highlights challenges faced by Pacific Island Countries at Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting

Richard Butler | Daily Post | July 6th, 2019

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and Minister responsible for ICT, Telecommunication and Broadcasting led a delegation to Singapore from 24 to 28 June 2019 to attend two important meetings.

The delegation comprised of the first Political Adviser to PMO, Mr. Emiliano Bouletare, Director General of PMO, Dr. Gregoire Nimbtik, Mr. John Jack from the OGCIO and Close Protection Officer, Mr. Jacques Nawan.

From 25 – 26 June 2019, the Prime minister joined other Ministers responsible for Telecommunication / Information and Communication Technology (ICT), from 32 Members and Associate Members of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) in the ICT Ministerial Meeting to commit to a connected digital future for the region by adopting the “Singapore Statement on Co-creating a Connected Digital Future in the Asia-Pacific”.

The Singapore Statement sets out the vision of a connected digital future through the development of telecommunication / ICT in the Asia-Pacific region.

The last Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting was held in Brunei Darussalam in 2014. Over the past five years, the ICT development in the region has shown remarkable improvements in accordance with the key priority areas identified at that meeting.

Cognisant of the rapidly evolving digital and ICTs landscape, the Ministers have identified the following five new Strategic Goals in the Singapore Statement to guide efforts to build a connected digital future in the Asia-Pacific region:

A. Digital Transformation which aims to provide an enabling environment for telecommunication/ICT development through improved telecommunication/ICT connectivity and access for citizens and businesses so as to accelerate the digital transformation of the economy and society, which will in turn contribute to socio-economic growth, innovation and better delivery of public services;

B. Digital Innovation and Creativity which aims to create an environment which is conducive for digital innovation and creativity, by introducing policies and frameworks that encourage emerging technologies, accelerate the growth of digital entrepreneurship, and promote international standards on telecommunication/ICT;

C. Digital Community which aims to make telecommunication/ICT accessible to everyone in our communities, including in the unserved and under served geographical regions and people from vulnerable groups and to embrace diversity, through inclusive policies and the development of reliable telecommunication/ICT infrastructure;

D. Digital Trust which aims to encourage trusted and secured systems which promote the protection of data privacy, facilitate free and secure flow of information, and are resilient towards cyber threats, so that people can engage in online activities with confidence and openly share information online; and

E. Digital Capacity Building and Partnerships which aim to build the digital literacy and skills of all citizens so that they will be well-equipped to work collaboratively, both within the telecommunication/ICT sector as well as across other sectors, towards co-creating a connected digital future in the region.

Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore, hosted the Gala Dinner of the Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting 2019 at the Istana on 25 June 2019 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the APT.

The APT was established in 1979 with 15 Members, including Singapore. It has since expanded to 38 Members, 4 Associate Members and 136 Affiliate Members. The APT is the only treaty-based intergovernmental organisation in the field of telecommunications/ICTs founded by the joint initiatives of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for the Asia-Pacific region. It has played a key role in fostering regional cooperation and facilitating developmental initiatives, forums and capacity building programmes to support these developments.

Minister S Iswaran, Chairman of the Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting, said, “This year, we celebrate 40 years of APT cooperation. Since the founding of the APT, we have made good progress in preparing our businesses and citizens to harness ICT to seize opportunities. We hope to continue to forge close collaborations with our regional partners and to learn from each other, so as to collectively build a thriving digital future for Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region.”

Prime Minister Salwai outlined the many complex challenges that Small Island Developing States, including Pacific Islands Countries continue to face and therefore stresses that it is imperative that there must be more sustainable model of development through partnership, more innovative ways through the power of ICT in fulfilling the rising expectations of our population.

He said, “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 Road map, among many of our national initiatives. If we get it right, we will be able to deliver a unique experience to our citizens, residents and businesses.”

Ms. Areewan Haorangsi, Secretary General of APT, said, “The Singapore Statement will provide the guidelines for the next five years to lead the APT including all APT members and the APT Secretariat to co-create a connected digital future in the Asia-Pacific. Concrete action plans will be drawn up through the Strategic Plan of the APT to be adopted by the subsequent sessions of the General Assembly while the implementation of the Plans will be closely monitored. I believe this Singapore Statement will facilitate the promotion of widespread digital adoption in the region by providing fair and equitable access to ICT services for all citizens in our communities.”

The meeting was organised by the APT and hosted by the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore, at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center in Singapore on 25-26 June 2019.

From 27 – 28 June, Prime Minister Salwai and his delegation joined in Innovfest Unbound and the Straits Digital Exchange program of Smart Nation Innovation Week on invitation by the Minister of Communications and Information of Singapore. The PM was a panel member in panel discussion sessions of both the Straits Digital Exchange and the innovfest unbound.