I think I’m far from unique in having had a personal and professional interest in working in the Pacific but lacking a mechanism or hook to get me there and to start applying myself. The Pacific Connect Dialogue I attended in the Solomon Islands in November 2018 was the opportunity I needed. Encouraging and enabling the Australian private sector to do business in and with the Pacific has (and remains) an ongoing challenge. Second track processes such as that employed by Pacific Connect provide a powerful mechanism to connect Australians and Pacific peoples, and to get Australians thinking about how their work can be utilised and relevant to our Pacific neighbours. I believe this comes from facilitating connection and collaboration, which the Pacific Connect Dialogue proved very good at doing.
As an outcome of our Dialogue in the Solomon Islands, our network collaborated on a project idea that was submitted to the DFAT Australia-Solomon Islands Technology For Development Challenge in December 2018. The project has now been funded and my organisation, Common Code, is the lead agency for delivering our proposed technology solution with our Solomon Islands colleagues over the next 12 months. This would not have happened without the Dialogue. Additionally, I was able to connect another business (where I am an Advisor) to Pacific Connect, and they too were successful in the Challenge and will now be working in the Solomon’s for the next 12 months and beyond.
I am excited now to return to the second Solomon Island Pacific Connect Dialogue this month to look at logistics and transport, and how we can harness digital opportunities to address this massive barrier to economic and social development for the country. As someone with a long history in trade and supply chains, and having funded cocoa exports from Honiara, I am keenly aware of the degree to which logistics issues plague and hinder the competitiveness of Pacific products in the marketplace and rob hard working farmers and producers of much needed income. I am uncertain what will emerge, but I believe the second track Dialogue process employed by Pacific Connect will help us unlock some impactful new ideas and projects – and collaboration between Australians and Solomon Islanders.