USP, Pacific Connect host Inaugural Academic Network Dialogue
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Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP during his presentation.
Rapid developments and use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) is crucial to Pacific’s development and future prosperity.
This was the comment made by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP) and Chair of Council of Regional Ogranisations of the Pacific (CROP) ICT Working Group (WG) during the inaugural Academic Network Dialogue organised by Pacific Connect and USP at the Laucala Campus on 19 June 2018.
The Academic Network Dialogue brought together current and future academic leaders, technology and policy experts from across the Pacific to consider the challenges and opportunities of digital connectivity for the region’s tertiary education sector.
Through facilitated, outcome-focused roundtable discussions, participants of the Dialogue from the Pacific and Australia identified challenges to solve and select practical projects to take forward which will be developed through a series of subsequent meetings and long-term collaboration.
Professor Chandra presented on Digital Evolution in the Pacific - potential for impact and talked about the contemporary developments and challenges in regional ICT in the Pacific, particularly in having the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) connect through submarine cables.
However, he said that while fibre is being rolled out, other issues like facilitative institutional systems, including the liberalising of telecom markets are slow in development.
Professor Chandra added that visionary national plans and the development of applications are still lacking within which market problems could be addressed.
He informed the participants that Fiji has recently announced its Digital Fiji Strategy and Samoa has also hosted a conference to work out its plans for digital Samoa.
Participants of the Inaugural Academic Network Dialogue at USP’s Laucala Campus.
Through a decision of the leaders, a strong regional approach has been taken in Pacific’s digital development in line with the broad approach of regional co-operation and integration; and as such USP has been chosen as the lead regional agency for ICT through the CROP ICT WG.
CROP ICT WG is working to ensure that all the players active in Pacific Islands’ ICT development can work closely together in new ways to yield better results and avoid wastage of scarce resource.
Moving on, talking about USP, Professor Chandra noted that because of its nature, the University developed its infrastructure in order to reach major towns and centres in its member countries.
Looking at the digitally-enabled University, the Vice-Chancellor and President mentioned that USP works with a fairly well provided internet system with an Australia Academic Research Network (AARNET) Hub located at Laucala; regional campuses connected through submarine cables; USPNet Satellite network, which is core to distance learning and is constantly being upgraded; strong use of online and blended flexible learning with lecture capture and student tablets; increasing use of analytics, open education resources (OERs) and interactive learning; and fourteen (14) of USP’s programmes are offered on-line.
Furthermore, a Cybersecurity centre for regional assistance and research is also expected to be stablished by the end of 2018.
Some of the issues highlighted by Professor Chandra that need to be addressed in the Pacific include:
Lack of vision and commitment is limiting progress;
Lack of skills, especially in the area of Digital Transformation;
Lack of resources to sustain and scale up the initiatives;
Lack of contextualisation for the Pacific; and
Uneven readiness from large islands to small atolls.
He stated that in order to ensure that the region has more rapid ICT development, strong partnership is needed between governments, development partners, regional agencies, and the private sector, adding that this is now possible through the CROP ICT WG.
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