Part of the audience at the PFIP 10th anniversary launch.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) has taken the onus of spearheading ICT innovation and development in the Pacific, says Dr Bibhya Sharma, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE).
He made the comment on behalf of Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice Chancellor and President during the 10th anniversary of the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) at the Laucala Campus on 3 October, 2018.
Dr Sharma welcomed all those present saying it was a double cerebration as USP marks its 50th Anniversary of existence in the Pacific.
“As we mark the 10 year Anniversary of PFIP, we acknowledge the significant contribution the programme has made to increase financial access in the South Pacific, and in particular its commitment to focusing on the most vulnerable and ensuring that PFIP initiatives are inclusive,” he noted.
Commenting on ICT, Dr Sharma said ICT has made its mark in many facets of human life worldwide, and the Pacific is no exception.
“We need to leverage ICT to make such things happen in the Pacific. I believe we are on the right track, but we need to foster more collaborations, partnerships, combine resources and expertise, a working marriage between public and private sectors, and work for the best,” he said.
USP he said, is placing its strong interest and focus on innovations and inventions and has received eight (8) patents so far by IP Australia.
“We believe that ICT plays a key role thus our programme and support services are designed in line with advanced technology. USP is in the last year of its current Strategic Plan and our new one hinges on analytics, date-driven organisation, mobile apps, cybersecurity, cloud computing and ICT infrastructure to name a few,” he said.
USP, he added, is pleased to collaborate with PFIP on these issues. We are currently in the process of signing an agreement between the USP and PFIP.
This cooperative arrangement aims to enhance development, designing, piloting of FinTech related (digital) innovations that can be scaled across the Pacific besides cooperation in the areas of digital financial education.
The first step of this partnership is to work with PFIP on the “PacFarmer” App that will act as a repository of information for farmers while also providing access to finance.
He stated that while the initial focus country will be Fiji, it will be expanded to other Pacific countries based on demand.
“USP will host the App platform and will play a critical role when expanding the App to other Pacific island countries. Without spilling the beans here, there are a few other exciting proposals we hope to work on with PFIP,” he stated.
Mr Bram Peters, PFIP Programme Manager stated that now more than ever before “we realise that financial inclusion is a means to an end. And for that reason, we are focusing on usage rather than access”.
This he said, has been one of the main reasons why PFIP changed its approach a couple of years ago and are now applying our “Innovation Lab” approach when working with their private sector partners, to pilot and test new products before rolling them out.
His Excellency John Feakes, the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji stated that in a world driven by the cash economy and international flows of capital, many people in developing countries still remain excluded from formal financial services.
He remarked that the Australian Government has long supported financial inclusion initiatives, and is committed to broadening its focus on access to financial services to further break down the barriers to economic participation by the poor. This he stated, is why the Australian Government has invested around 29 million Australian dollars into PFIP to date.
Those who attended included His Excellency Mr John Feakes, the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji; Mr Bram Peters, Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme Manager; Governors and representatives of the central banks in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu; distinguished government officials, the PFIP Team; Members of the development community; Private sector representatives across the region and members of the public.
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