A first time for everything

There’s a first for everything. This experience of travelling to Australia is a first in my lifetime, the first time for a Tongan delegation to attend an ICDP Dialogue and the first time to experience being in a parliament house was a PLUS.

The excitement all began on Sunday evening, when I met numerous women from neighbouring Pacific Islands countries, including Australia and New Zealand, who all had their own unique backgrounds, for example as entrepreneurs, bankers, civil servants, IT Engineers, and storytellers. It was surprising for me when I was introduced to the others in the room as many of them did not have backgrounds that were ICT based (as I thought they would have been when coming to this dialogue). My thoughts were that it would be purely ICT engineers talking digital. It was confused at first as to how we would be able to connect with all the different backgrounds.

At Queensland Parliament House, we conducted introductions and for it me was unusual that all our introductions were similar, even though we were from different backgrounds and societies. We were asked to think how our mothers or fathers or a friend would introduce us to a group. As introductions went around the table, we heard how mothers would describe some participants as, “She’s very determined, what she sets out to do she makes sure she does it”, “My mother would be very proud of me and my achievements (DREAM BIG EVERYONE)”. It dawned on me – we may have different backgrounds but we all consist of similar personalities and I just wanted to learn more from everyone in the room, from the guest speakers, to the hosts and of course the participants.

It’s amazing how a bunch of different people can sit in a room and discuss, share, innovate and broaden so many great and adventurous ideas.

In Tonga, there is an incredibly small number of female entrepreneurs and there are very few female engineers but it is increasing in numbers daily. This dialogue was an eye opener fro me on how we can contribute to economic and social development, digital development and project accomplishments. Entrepreneurs in Australia shared their experiences and I sat there thinking, “I’m not an entrepreneur but I think I can become one” – I gained such motivation and pride from these great women.

Attending this dialogue was a good experience as I was attending on behalf of all females in the Tongan ICT industry. Female ICT in Tonga is also known as CocoNet. It is a non-profit organisation that was established in 2018 to foster, encourage and empower the participation of women and girls within the Kingdom of Tonga’s ICT industry and to provide a voice within the male dominated industry. CocoNet also aims to support and encourage younger women to come up with innovative ideas to marry digitisation with our everyday lives to help and support its operations. With this being our little organisation’s main purpose, I came to this  dialogue with aim of bringing back home some ideas where we can help input to achieve our goals as an organisation, even get new ideas and initiatives to push and achieve in our organisation.

I was fully concentrating on DFAT during their presentation, as I really wanted to know specifics of their aid engagement program. One day, we can apply some of the proposals for some of the projects we wish to accomplish in Tonga by women in ICT.

In the dialogue discussions, we identified some important areas to look into what is important all around the Pacific, some namely to be in waste management, a mobile banking enabler in the Pacific, agriculture and digitisation and so many more.

My favourite part of this trip included visiting The Precinct, an innovation hub. I love technology and this was just such an exciting visit for me. I visited an innovation hub in Wellington in 2017 and this visit to The Precinct was quite thrilling. I love seeing new ideas created in this hub by driven and intelligent people.

All in all, this was a fruitful, yet fun and exciting trip with so much beneficial knowledge to all who attended. Upon arriving back home I presented all the things I learnt and gained from this trip to our little organisation. I filled them in on the ideas that were brought up in the discussions so that we can pick a topic and see if we are able to run it in Tonga, so that others can benefit from what we have to offer.

Selu Kauvaka

Selu Kauvaka

Selu recently started up a Women in ICT group in Tonga called CocoNet. She’s also a Senior Systems Engineer at the Ministry of Meterology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC) of Tonga. She is fluent in Tongan, English and Japanese.