14 June 2010[NUKU'ALOFA: Opening Address by Mr. Paula P. Ma'u, Secretary for Information and Communications at SPC & ITU ICT Policy Workshop for Decision Makers, International Dateline Hotel, (June 14-15, 2010)]
Hon. Francis Itimai - Minister of Transportation and Communications, FSM
Mrs. Gisa Purcell and Mr. Sandro Bazzanella of the ITU
Mr. Siaosi Sovaleni and Staff of SPC
Stakeholders and the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
I extend a warm welcome to you all from the Government and the people of Tonga. It is a milestone for information and communications in Tonga to host such an important gathering and perhaps fitting that the theme for this workshop be held in what used to be considered a remote part of the globe.
I note with interest that the participants are representatives of governments, information and communications service providers, media organizations, and NGOs and civil society entities who are actively involved in a wide range of ICT activities from the countries and territories of the home we called The Pacific.
Without doubt this workshop will ensure that the unique contributions of ICT to the lives and needs of Pacific Island countries and its people including groups with special needs are fully recognized and realized, wherever we are, and whatever we do, irrespective of our economic, social, and cultural backgrounds.
Each and everyone of us have considered, formulated and currently implementing national and organizational policies, strategies and action plans relating to ICTs, and surely, priority issues included the special circumstances facing us all in becoming knowledge societies, focus on information rather than technology, improvements in human resources and infrastructure, the importance of traditional media, recognising diversity and special needs, and the role of non-governmental organisations. But due to its forever fast changing environment, challenges are becoming more acute and intense.
I am sure that at the end of this workshop, participants will be better placed to understand opportunities and priorities for deriving optimum benefits from ICTs as developmental tools. Attention may focus on a wide variety of critical issues, including the often high costs of ICT development, human resource constraints, and the need to ensure that ICT access is made as universal as possible and that women, special assistance and all other related groups are able to participate fully in ICT activities.
Tonga is currently undertaking a major reform to its information and communications sector by creating a new environment conducive to economic and social development. The market has been liberalized and competition has been introduced, and I believe one of the first in the Pacific. A National ICT Policy has been adopted by July of last year. Important part of these policy initiatives is developing of a Universal Service System (USS) to ensure that any citizen who requires communications access, can obtain it.
And with this initiative, I thank in particular to the contributions made by our two carriers, the Tonga Communications Corporation (TCC) and Digicel (Tonga) Ltd for upgrading their network facilities recently to those villages and remote areas that have been receiving very weak telecommunications signals. I thank also to the ITU, SPC, and the Commonwealth Secretariat for their continued effort and assistance in this field, particularly the two Niuas and the Ha'apai Group.
The foregoing is just a brief outlined of the concerted effort by the Government, the service providers, and stakeholders alike to address to issue of making communications access available to remote islands and rural areas, and for all.
Now, I take this opportunity to thank ITU, SPC and the European Union for organizing this workshop.
May you all have a rewarding, fruitful and constructive deliberations.
Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa