Pacific Connect Network Dialogue – Brisbane Communiqué

Australia-Pacific Connections for a Digital Future

Pacific Connect Network Dialogue

Pacific Women In Business and Digital Delivery

17-20 February 2019, Brisbane, Australia


1. We, the participants of the Pacific Connect Network Dialogue on Pacific Women in Business and Digital Delivery, convened on 17-20 February 2019 in Brisbane, Australia at the invitation of the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships (ICDP). The Dialogue was supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

2. We would like to thank Simone Pensko, Tina Briggs and the staff of ICDP for organising and hosting the Dialogue, and Queensland Parliament House for a warm welcome. We congratulate the organisers of the Dialogue for assembling a diverse group of emerging leaders from across the Pacific with expertise in a broad range of sectors, including business development, entrepreneurship, agriculture, government, information technology and legal affairs.

3. We thank the Dialogue’s facilitators Catherine Fritz-Kalish and Taulapapa Brenda HeatherLatu for leading discussions on Barriers to Digital Innovation and Business Delivery in the Pacific in the brainstorming sessions, and Dr Melis Senova for her expert facilitation of the design thinking workshop. We also thank speakers Trish Mackie-Smith, Sarah Mak and Dr Melis Senova for sharing their inspiring stories with us. We welcome the presentation by Don Mortimore and Melissa Kirk from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and their valuable insights into DFAT’s aid procurement and business engagement operations, and appreciate the support the Department provides to Pacific businesses.

4. We recognise the growing importance of female entrepreneurs in the Pacific and their increasing contribution to economic and social development across the region. We believe that further investment in female education and training will not only empower women and spur economic growth but benefit all members of society. Encouraging female leadership of projects and networks and helping more women to create their own enterprises will further unleash the untapped potential of half the region’s population. The Pacific’s greatest resource is its people, and maximising the intellectual, economic and leadership potential of women in the region will unlock the benefits generated over the last century in the developed world.

5. We welcome Australia’s commitment to building stronger relationships with Pacific Island nations through interpersonal connections. Pacific Connect and ICDP offer a new platform for Pacific and Australian women to interact and develop commercial projects and social ventures, and we are convinced that pooling our skills, experience and enthusiasm for change through ongoing engagement with the Pacific Connect Community will help broaden opportunities for all Pacific women.

6. We applaud the ingenuity of female entrepreneurs in embracing the market opportunities created by mobile technology and improved connectivity but recognise that many common barriers facing aspiring businesswomen across the Pacific remain. These include physical challenges such as a lack of access to hardware, limited or absent wifi, unreliable electrical power, high service costs and physical remoteness, as well as social issues such as a lack of access to mentoring and trusted sources of information, and traditional attitudes towards, and expectations of, women.

7. We believe that future productivity and prosperity in the Pacific will be generated by entrepreneurial pursuits, and that the region’s untapped human capacity can be unlocked by building local awareness of digital opportunities and identifying ‘champions for change’. Pacific communities have a rich history of storytelling, and well-crafted public narratives could play an important role in galvanising social and behavioural change.

8. We have identified several areas for action, including potential projects and professional development opportunities, to help surmount some of the barriers to digital innovation and female entrepreneurship in the region. These include:

  • Launching a waste management project supported by Global Access Partners’ expert network
  • Delivering a behavioural change masterclass in partnership with James Cook university
  • Promoting local take-up of mobile banking through better communication and storytelling
  • Developing PayPal-type facility to enable online transactions in Papua New Guinea
  • Creating an agricultural app for PNG farmers, to reduce waste in the sector and improve farmers’ access to markets
  • Exploring opportunities to increase local produce experts to meet growing international demand for Pacific products
  • Encouraging continuous upskilling of employees and promoting service excellence to improve customer relations and build viable and sustainable businesses
  • Establishing a new support network, Women in Digital Delivery, in Fiji, to celebrate women in technology and empower members to share ideas and collaborate on projects
  • Designing more inclusive apps for people with disabilities
  • Working with DFAT’s Seasonal Workers program to improve the coordination of season workers from Lae in PNG
  • Forming a coalition of Dialogue participants to communicate with DFAT on procurement opportunities, with the potential to jointly respond to tenders
  • Supporting young people with smart business ideas by offering access to incubator programs in the Pacific
  • Increasing the visibility of Pacific talent and expertise to improve the local delivery of digital projects
  • Improving access to digital education and modern ways of learning for students and school leavers

9. We will collaborate on these ideas and opportunities through further meetings and events and ICDP’s Slack forum for the Pacific Connect Community. We will coordinate our efforts to prioritise projects and appreciate that not all of them will come to fruition; however, we strongly believe that the efforts spent on project development will, in itself, help facilitate the building of longer-term relationships.

10. We valued our time at The Precinct, the Queensland Government’s innovation hub, and were inspired by our meetings with young entrepreneurs. We also greatly appreciated our guided tour of the Women’s Wealth exhibition at the QLD Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art. We come away from the visit with a number of practical business ideas and renewed determination to share contacts and knowledge, expand digital delivery in the region, and engage and encourage female entrepreneurs.

11. We appreciate the invitation to participate in the Second Pacific Connect Forum, planned for Sydney, Australia on 18-19 September 2019, and look forward to meeting and forming closer bonds with the fast-expanding Pacific Connect family.