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The moderator Mr Miguel Candia Ibarra chaired the session on the road to full connectivity for land locked developing countries (LLDCs), less developed countries (LDC) and small island developing states (SIDS).
SIDS, LLDCs and LDCs continue to face challenges such as to develop critical infrastructure, internet related public policies, improve accessibility, affordability, and quality of internet services and other information and communication technologies (ICT's).
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight the need to continue working in partnership with key stakeholders to overcome these challenges.
The objective of the open forum was to bring together different expertise and look at the environment for ICT for SIDS, LCDs and LLDCs.
Ibarra said, ‘Developing countries particularly face challenges in policy issues’.
Ms Maritza Delgado, from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), highlighted ITU’s work and commitment to connect everyone. ICT for SIDS, LLDCs and LDCs is an imperative and recognised by ITU as a key priority.
Resolutions 16 and 30 provide ITU with a mandate to pay special attention to these countries and help countries to achieving the 2030 SDG agenda.
The Connect 2020 agenda highlights the global telecommunication ICT. Around 50% of the population of these countries should have access to the internet by 2020.
ITU has a program called ‘concentrated assistance’ and different LDCs participate each year to concentrate the assistance and benefit.
She further added that Zambia had received ICT equipment to support schools for visually impaired children. ITU is providing communities with these solutions. ITU is also working on big data and a great example highlighted by Ms Delgado was the work in Sierra Leone to combat the spread of epidemics, such as Ebola, using ICTs.
The African development of wireless broadband internet is also aimed at providing low cost or free connectivity for schools especially in rural and remote areas.
ITU has signed an agreement with eleven specific countries in the Pacific to provide them with connectivity. The project will develop 55 e-community centres, and support countries to develop local models providing satellite connectivity free of charge, but the communities need to be sustainable.
Ms Delgado said that all 47 LCDs will need to launch 3 mobile services and 60% of the population need to be covered by a 3G network’.
Ms Jane Coffin, ISOC, highlighted the research study targeting the LDCs and the SIDS on connectivity and access. She mentioned that internet exchange points (IXPs) have been successful in a few of these small developing countries. However there are still concerns in relation to regulatory issues, licensing and spectrum. She gave an example that it took almost a year of negotiation between 2 countries to get 50 metres of fibre over a bridge.
Mr Jovan Kurbalija, Diplo Foundation, highlighted Diplo’s efforts in engaging more LDC and SIDS representatives to go through capacity building programmes. He acknowledged the Pacific delegates in the room who have been part of the Diplo courses and are also alumni.
Kurbalija is very familiar with the challenges in the small island states. A very interesting development noted by Kurbalija is the traffic telecommunications work moving from so called undersea cables. He highlighted other challenges in the area of equal participation in international relations. In the case of a small state like Tuvalu, it has to compete with bigger countries like China and Russia etc. Ssmall countries find it difficult to write policy reports as they do nott have enough human capacity.
Kurbalija highlighted his experience at a global summit. He met with the ambassador from Kiribati who mentioned that they are struggling with trade negotiations. He mentioned that Kiribati had to deal with construction online and lost $1 million in shipping to a building company in Indonesia.
There are also problems in small countries with lack of resources and expertise in the area of digital forensics or cybercrime.
He further added that it is quite challenging to do capacity building as SIDS and LDCs are limited by size.
So the question is, ‘Should we develop this expertise and what will be the next step?’
Interventions were also made by the representative from Taiwan, which has been committed to assisting diplomatic allies with ICTs. SIDS and land locked developing countries have benefited through e-government services and digital opportunities.
The Permanent Mission of Solomon Islands to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Ambassador Barrett Salato made a critical intervention on the need to work in partnership to address significant challenges in the Pacific region. Salato said that the quality of connectivity is an issue and there needs to be further engagement with business and private enterprise to meet these demands.
The First Secretary, Mr Ajendra Pratap from the Permanent Mission of Fiji, highlighted that the road to full connectivity for LDCs and SIDS is a challenge. He referred toimpediments of remoteness and digital literacy which are endemic and noted that to achieve connectivity, governments will need to take measures within their capabilities.
The Chair finally concluded that the issues that LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS face are very deep and very complex. He added that they are very much specific to the identity of each country. He said, ‘we must keep working on this all together and welcome initiatives on working together and forming groups for negotiations.’
ITU is working on the next set of plans for 2024.
By Anju Mangal.