Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor


Welcome Speech for the Groundbreaking for the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre, the University of the South Pacific

21 January 2009

Professor Rajesh Chandra

The Guests of Honour, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Development, and Multi-Ethnic Affairs, and our very good friend, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and the Ambassador of Japan to Fiji and the Pacific Islands, Your Excellency Mr. Yutaka Yoshizawa; Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corp; the Deputy Representative of JICA in Fiji; Mr. Nariaki Mikuni; the representative of the Project Consultants, Mr. Hiroyuki Koike; the General Manager, International Division of Konoike Construction Limited, Mr. Miyoshi Ono;  the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Ministerís Office, Mr. Parmesh Chand;  the Permanent Secretary for Education, Mrs. Emi Rabukawaqa; the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and Civil Aviation, Ratu Isoa Gavidi; the Deputy Chair of the USP Council and Chairman of its Audit Committee, Mr. Ikbal Jannif; Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Esther Williams and other members of the USP Senior Management Group;  staff and students of the University, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to the University of the South Pacificís Laucala Bay Campus, and to the groundbreaking ceremony of the much awaited Japan Pacific ICT Centre. I extend a special welcome to the Minister, the Japanese Ambassador, and the Representatives from the Fiji Government, the Deputy Head of JICA, the representatives of the Consultant and the Project Contractor.

The Japan Pacific ICT Centre

Today is a very happy occasion for the University as we will break ground for the Japan Pacific ICT Centre building, a project that was first raised at PALM III in Okinawa in May 2003. I am especially delighted to be part of this important ceremony, as I attended this PALM meeting and we worked hard to have this proposal accepted. Much has intervened, but we are very grateful to the Government and people of Japan for final approval and the start of construction for this project even in the very difficult international economic environment.

The Japan Pacific ICT Centre will be the largest building on this campus and will provide the University a state-of-the-art ICT Centre that will enable the University to centralize its key IT services in one location; enhance human resource development in ICT both through teaching and research; provide a close link with industry through the testing and business incubation units; and generally allow the whole region to benefit from the enormous potential offered by ICT in development. This Centre also has the capacity to add much value to the current ICT Park at Statham campus, and thus generate future revenue.

The former Ambassador of Japan to Fiji and the Pacific Islands, His Excellency Mr. Namekawa and the Fiji Government worked tirelessly to ensure that this Japan-Pacific ICT Centre dream reached fruition. I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Namekawa and to Fiji for this persistent support that is eventually seeing fruition today.   

Your Excellency Mr. Yoshizawa, you have done much for the final push to enable us to break ground today. On behalf of the University, I would like to thank you very much, and look forward to your continued support for the University.

I would also like to thank you Ratu Epeli for your own efforts in ensuring that the project commenced as you did the signing of the final agreements in your role as Minister for Foreign Affairs. We are very pleased that you are here today with us to commence this important project.

Strong and Strengthening Ties between Japan and USP

The Government of Japan has a longstanding and strong relationship with USP through bilateral arrangements with the Governments of the USP Member Countries, and is now a key development partner of the University. There is a long list of extremely valuable projects that the Government of Japan has funded for the University.

The whole of the lower campus of the University, and the cutting edge facilities for marine studies, were provided by the Government of Japan. The Government of Japan continues to support this development that is so vital to the welfare of our member countries.

The current version of USPNet, launched in 2000, was also the result of the generosity of the people and government of Japan, this time working together with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. The advances that USP has made in supporting its distance and flexible learning and teaching for all its member countries owe much to this enhanced version of USPNet.

Apart from the physical infrastructure developments at USP that the Government and people of Japan have so generously funded, the university and its stakeholders have also been enriched through the numerous JICA Experts and Senior Volunteers who have contributed immensely to build the universityís capacity.

USP students and staff also benefit from cultural and academic exchanges with Japanese institutions. Our exchange programme with the Sonoda Gakuen Womenís University is a cultural one that takes place between November and December where three USP students go to Sonoda for five weeks. Three students participated in 2008 and we expect to send another three later this year.  I have no doubt that the experiences gained by the students are very enriching and educational. This is now perhaps one of our longest-running exchange programmes.

Our cooperation with the University of Electro Communications in Tokyo has enabled the University to offer post-graduate courses in computing science by distance and flexible learning.  Through the generosity of JICA we have at least one scholarship offered annually to a staff member.  Currently  we have close research relations with a number of Universities in Japan.

Cooperation with the Government and people of Japan continues to be strengthened through bilateral requests from and through USP Member Governments, the most recent being a request through the Government of Fiji for a JICA Expert in Fisheries Community Development and two Senior JICA Volunteers in the fields of Aquaculture and Post Harvest Fisheries for attachment with the School of Marine Studies.

Fijiís Generosity and Unstinting Support to the University

I wish to also acknowledge the enormous gratitude that the University owes to the successive governments of Fiji for Fijiís large contributions to the University, and to being such an excellent host to the University. Fiji has also been agreeable to work closely with the Japanese government to enable USP to benefit from significant buildings and other support. The Marine Studies Building, the USPNet 2000, and now the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre are all bi-lateral projects between Japan and Fiji, which Fiji has handed over to the University. The Fiji Government has worked hard to ensure that this project succeeds, and I would like to thank the current Government very much for its contributions and assistance.

Optimal Use of ICT Facilities and Cost-Effective and Sustainable University

I would like to assure both the Governments of Japan and Fiji that the University will make the best use of the facilities represented by the Japan Pacific ICT Centre, and that we will also ensure that these benefits reach all of our member countries. We will therefore be upgrading our USPNet and facilities starting this year.

We also wish to assure both governments that the University is taking decisive action to reduce its costs, review its courses and programmes to make them more relevant and responsive; and that a concerted effort is being made to improve the quality of the Universityís teaching and learning, research and engagement with the community. We enter 2009 with renewed confidence that we can serve our member countries well in meeting their development challenges.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the University once again. I reiterate our gratitude to the Government and people of Fiji and Japan for the generous contribution that the Japan Pacific ICT Centre represents.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Domo arigato

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