Fiji’s Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum delivering his keynote address during the ICT Conference 2013 at the USP’s Laucala campus.
The official opening was attended by academics, staff and students from the USP, University of Fiji and the Fiji National University.
In delivering his keynote address, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji now has the opportunity to produce a vast array of people who will be well educated.
Highlighting major changes that have taken place in the last four years, he said the Fiji Government has made an enormous investment in human resources through the provision of free education and provided internet access through the liberalization of the telecommunications industry.
“The theme for this conference is enabling access for all, now that’s a lot more fundamental than simply ICT,” he said.
“As announced by the Prime Minister in the 2014 Budget, there has been a very momentous and fundamental shift made in the education sector in Fiji. Over half a billion dollars has been allocated for the education sector and we take some of these things for granted, a few years ago this was unthinkable,” the Attorney General said.
“Apart from the fact that we have a new allocation of awarding of grants to various institutions in Fiji, there is now a truly free education system put in place.
He said this new system of free education not only puts more money into parents’ pocket but it gives school boards and committees the opportunity to invest in their schools.
Many primary schools for instance do not have computers, he said.
“Similarly for tertiary education, every student that leaves form 7 this year and if he or she gets a place in University, the student can go without having to pay fees upfront through the tertiary education loan scheme.”
“It’s unheard of in this part of the world so again it’s an investment on the future. It’s an enormous investment and we see that as part and parcel of this revolution that has been put in place,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
In talking about Fiji’s progress in telecommunications, the Acting PM revealed that 4G will be launched by the Prime Minister next Wednesday.
“Who would have thought a few years ago that Fiji would have 4G? Many countries are not even in to 3G. Papua New Guinea has 2G,” he said.
He said there is a huge potential in Fiji in terms of telecommunication and it is a fantastic place to invest in.
4G is the fourth generation of mobile phone mobile communication technology standards which provides mobile ultra broadband Internet access.
Coupled with that, focusing on the conference theme of enabling access for all, he said the Fiji Government has liberalized the telecommunication sector.
“Today we take for granted that we have two mobile phone providers, or that every two weeks there will be promotions like double up or seven up etc.”
“We take it for granted that today we can text for 5 cents as opposed to a dollar or 50 cents. This is the amazing thing about technology, because technology particularly in ICT takes us so quickly that we forget where we were,” he said.
“Today a fisherman in Yasawa knows exactly where to take his fish to for only 10 cents by texting. So it’s not just the ability to be able to communicate but also very empowering in terms of the ability of people to be able to access information which would in fact be very costly to access.”
“We believe the cost of doing business no doubt as far as telecommunications is concerned has come down significantly and empowered us to facilitate businesses,” he said.
Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Fiji (UoF), Dr Chandra Dulare, Vice-Chancellor of the Fiji National University (FNU), Dr Ganesh Chand, Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Rajesh Chandra and the Interim President of the University of Hawaii, Dr David Lassner with participants during the ICT Conference 2013 at the USP’s Laucala campus.
In his opening remarks, USP Vice-Chancellor
and President Professor Rajesh Chandra said that ICTs represent one of the most important tools of development and the creation of a knowledge society in the Pacific.
He said Fiji has made huge strides in this area, but “as the Acting Prime Minister would have seen from his recent participation at the ITU Summit, there is room to do even more, and this conference will, I am sure be talking about this”.
Professor Chandra said with regards to the rest of the region, there will soon be massive changes with Tonga recently having fibre connectivity, fibre being laid in Vanuatu and similar plans for Samoa and the Solomon Islands.
“The operationalization of O3B in Cook Islands soon will open up yet another option for connectivity in the Pacific,” Professor Chandra said.
He said at USP, ICT represents one of the seven priorities in our Strategic Plan 2013-2018.
“We are keen to advance the utilization/leveraging of ICTs very significantly for our learning, teaching, research, student services—indeed to see it as an integral part of our transformation from good to excellent,” he said.
“But we are also committed to improving ICTs in our member countries as the CROP lead agency for ICTs,” he added.
Vice-Chancellor of the Fiji National University (FNU), Dr Ganesh Chand said IT professionals in Fiji can work together and share information and the conference is a step towards that.
“We need to pull our resources together otherwise ICT will not become accessible and affordable,” he said.
“The conference has come at an opportune time for us as users, we are looking forward to a lot of very fruitful discussions and ways forward that we can begin to adopt as strategies and policies,” Dr. Chand said.
“We must ensure that people can acquire technology and at the end of the day we don’t only want its availability but its affordability as well,” he said.
He said the cost of doing business must fall with better technologies, otherwise the divide in ICT will become larger.
“If professionals begin to share information and work together, the cost will come down,” he said.
Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Fiji (UoF), Dr Chandra Dulare said ICT plays a pivotal role in education in the very near future and we cannot afford to turn a blind eye on it.
Recognising the importance of ICT in education international agencies like the World Bank and UNESCO have for the last two years focused seriously on the role if ICT in education.
He added that if there is no connectivity whatever policies are there concerning ICT will not work.
The conference ends tomorrow.