Ensuring opportunities for a digital Pacific
This is an edited summary of a keynote address delivered by the Hon. Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i at the inaugural Pacific Connect Forum, held at NSW Parliament House on 6 September 2018.
Connectivity is improving throughout the Pacific as new submarine cables are laid. The
question facing Pacific leaders is how to optimise the opportunities provided by this
hardware and ensure that everyone, including people on smaller islands, can access the
region’s digital development. Investment in connectivity can bring high returns, as it
enhances education, entrepreneurship and the integration of local economies in global
The first Digital Pacific conference, held in Apia in June 2018 and organised by Samoa’s
Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), welcomed participants
from seven Pacific Island nations and experts in digital transformation and private sector
representatives from around the world. No one country can go it alone in terms of digital
transformation, and Digital Pacific 2018 marked the beginning of a regional dialogue
about partnerships to achieve this goal.
Pacific colleagues must collaborate to maximise the impact of connectivity in the region
and make technology work for its citizens and communities. The Pacific Connect Forum
welcomes emerging Pacific leaders who are not only ‘tech savvy’ but are open-minded
and willing to forge unity between Pacific Islands. Pacific Connect can play a vital role in
bringing people together, but the hearts, minds and spirits of participants must remain
connected beyond the day’s activities to create tangible solutions, stimulate regional
economies and fast-track development through technology.
The small populations and geographical isolation of Pacific Islands should be seen as a
benefit in the future, rather than the excuse of the past. Minister Afamasaga urged
participants to work together to unite the Pacific through digital communication and
share ideas, costs and risks to transform regional economies and benefit local people.
He hoped to see the creation of ‘One Pacific’ and develop strength through unity.
He applauded the initiative of the Australian Government to partner with the private
sector through Pacific Connect. While the scheme aims to expand Australia’s engagement
with the region, its tangible results in terms of increasing prosperity for Pacific residents
may be even more significant. The creation of Pacific Island projects with Australian
technical and financial stewardship will help the region to eventually stand on its own.
Minister Afamasaga recalled being told by his father to finish whatever he started and
urged participants to ensure that the digital solutions they discussed were brought to
fruition. He hoped that the ‘One Pacific’ created by digital connectivity would help the
region compete in global markets as it never has before. He wished participants well at
the Forum and in their future activities.
Hon. Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i
The Hon. Afamasaga Lepuia’i Rico Tupa’i was appointed Samoa’s Minister of
Communications and Information Technology after his election as a Member of Parliament
in March 2016. Prior to the parliamentary elections, he was Managing Director of Skylite, a
Samoa and Pacific-based media agency.