A-G: Regional Govt, telecos responsible to attract new tech
The lack of economies of scale in the Pacific means regional governments and telecommunications providers have a responsibility to attract new technology in the region. This was emphasised by the AttorneyGeneral and Minister for Communications, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, yesterday. He was speaking during the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association Next Generation Networks (NGN) Forum at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. Comparatively, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said mobile phone connectivity in India is 10 million a month whereas the entire population of the Pacific is 10 million. He said this was the disparity which exists and thus the need to attract new technology.
“That is very critical for us otherwise we will get behind – socially and economically,” he said. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed that being left behind in terms of technology would then also affect our ability to attract investors.
“So whilst technology is available, we also need to be able to direct the service providers to the right space,” he said. “What we need to do is to bring the service providers into a common space.” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said one of the things Fiji is looking at is infrastructure sharing. He said at the moment, television and radio companies, telecommunications providers all have their own separate towers which is quite expensive. “For every company to put up a tower on every hill becomes very expensive,” he said. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this is where shared infrastructure would be beneficial however, government needs to put some regulations around that. “But even before the regulations – if we are able to form an agreement, then you will be able to get that connectivity and very fast,” he said. “Therefore your focus would be more on service provision side rather than on capital and awaiting return.”
The right framework
At the same time, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum emphasised the importance of providing clear, transparent and enabling framework where there is absence of corruption. He said it was also important to understand the service providers sometimes cherry pick and to ensure as Government, that cherry picking does not take place. “Because we will as a result marginalise further those people who do not have access to technology,” he said.
“So from being the great digital equaliser we can in fact become the great digital divider.” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum explained it was important for Government to ensure that those people in the rural and maritime areas we get the service provided to other areas too. “We have seen now that Ministry of Education is talking about giving tablets and various other electronic devices to school children,” he said. “Those electric devices will mean nothing if we have schools in rural areas or remotes part of Fiji which don’t actually have the network. “Government’s role is to ensure that we try and bridge that gap as quickly as possible. “There is a lot of technology which is now being brought to the Pacific Region that has not been brought to the Pacific prior to this. “The Pacific Region is indeed one of the last frontiers as far as access to technology is concerned.
“The reality is that it is okay to say you have access to internet access but at what cost, at what speed is it available at is critical.” The three-day forum will end tomorrow.
The Pacific Region is indeed one of the last frontiers as far as access to technology is concerned and there is a lot of technology which is now being brought to the Pacific Region that has not been brought to the Pacific prior to this Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Civil Service, Public Enterprise and Communications
Attorney- General and Minister for Communication Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (sitting 8th from left) with the participants of the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association Next Generation Networks (NGN) Forum at Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva yesterday.