Opening Address by The Princess Royal, HRH Princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita, of The Pacific ICT Ministrial Meeting, Friday 18th June, 2010.
Hon. Prime Minister, Nobles of the Realm,
Ministers of the Crown,
Honourable Ministers of Pacific Island Countries and Territories,Your Excellencies and Minister of the Diplomatic Corps,
Heads of Pacific Regional Organizations,
Dr. Jimmy Rodgers - Director General Secretariat of the Pacific Community,
Dr. Eun-Ju-Kim- Regional Asia Pacific Officer of ITU,
Dr. Havea and members of the Clergy
The Officiating Minister - The Hon. ‘Eseta Fusitu'a - Minister for Information & Communication.
On behalf of the Government and the People of Tonga, I extend a warm malo e lelei, welcome to all of you attending the Conference. Further, I would like to acknowledge the important contribution that the Noumea based Secretariat of the Pacific Community, or SPC has made toward the organization of this Pacific Regional ICT Officials, and Ministers meeting.
Whilst acknowledging SPC's role, I recognize the attendance at this conference, Government leaders, heads of Pacific regional organizations, leaders from various institutions, whether they be commercial or educational, where this conference provides the platform for dialogue, between representatives from such diverse backgrounds and disciplines, to review the Pacific Plan Digital strategy, and to revise and update, the ICT development framework for the Pacific region.
Although the telecommunications industry is not too unfamiliar to me, where Tongasat and the Government of Tonga filed for frequency assignments at various geostationary, and non-geostationary orbital positions with the ITU, I do not presume to know specific details of the regional network plan, the hardware and software technology to be utilized, the role that Governments will play, but I am supportive of the initiatives and objectives of this conference.
I cannot say with any degree of certainty what the Regional Plan is, nor am I able to speak on the technology framework to be adopted. However, I do understand the vision behind the implementation the policy framework, and the objectives to be achieved. I am extremely supportive of the initiatives to promote economic growth, improving education and health standards, and need to preserve our own Tongan culture and values. I may appear overly cautious, as to the role technology has within our society, but I am acutely aware of the importance it has played in my own office, and the profound impact, it has had on business in Tonga. There is no denying, the need for an improved regional communications network, especially given the international commerce that we as Pacific Nations, are engaged in.
However, as a concerned parent grandparent I pay particular attention to the needs of students, the greater accessibility to computers, and the internet as learning tools and review for myself the intrinsic value of technology, in our education system. With some scepticism, I do accept that there is beneficial value and a place for technology and internet in higher learning, but I do not accept that ‘Bebo', ‘facebook' and ‘You Tube', have any fundamental educational value, for the vast majority of our society, who are seemingly engaged in squandering away their valuable time. I am acutely aware, that a substantial amount of time in the work place, is set aside for such practices, which begs the question, where can the line be drawn between technology for the collective good in society, as opposed to technology, for social networking?
As a former teacher, I am also concerned with the manner, in which technology, in particular mobile phone text messaging, has been instrumental in cheerfully ‘slaughtering' the English language. Surprisingly, such text messages, now form a part of our school exam syllabus. An obvious paradox, where I profess to being seemingly computer illiterate, where literacy, is of no great importance for avid text messengers.
The greatest concern I do have with improved technology and internet access, which I accept that the policy framework acknowledges the need for legislation, is the field of criminal activity, fraud, ecommerce crime and other dangers, inherent within the system. I realise that these are matters of grave concern to you all, however, how does a country go about policing such crimes?
As Albert Einstein once said: "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity". I do have this constant fear that our humanity will be usurped by freedoms, that people have with greater access to the internet at the touch of the key pad. But it is my faith in the Lord that reinforces my belief and commitment to humanity, while remaining vigilant of the developments in communication and technology.
I believe that it is the responsibility of good leadership, to implement such policies, that govern the use and access of technology, where there are mutual benefits, for the good of the individual nation, and Pacific region, which proceeding with abundant caution, as to the dangers inherent within the system.
Throughout the course of this Conference, I will pay close attention to the developments in internet speed, and the delivery of greater bandwidth; and will be interested in developments in the field of telemedicine and video-conferencing; I am concerned with the spread and delivery of communications, to remote and isolated communities within the Pacific region; and I will give particular notice to the developments in e-commerce; I wish to actively learn more, about the need for secure and safe delivery of educational information, over the internet; and I will effectively participate in any community based projects, through a digital strategy, that promotes our culture and heritage.
On that note, I would encourage active participation by all of you in attendance, where we can share our own experiences, exchange knowledge and valuable information, and achieve a Digital Strategy for the benefit of all members for our Region. It is my fervent hope that you all have an enjoyable stay in Tonga, and that meaningful dialogue and discussion takes place during the course of the Conference, which may assist in achieving our desired objectives.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed my pleasure to declare this Pacific Ministers' Communications and ICT meeting open. My God Bless you all.
Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa, 2010