Australia strengthens ICT cooperation in the Pacific region

Ministers at the 4th ICT Ministerial Dialogue in Papua New Guinea have agreed on an action plan to enhance regional collaboration and cooperation in the region and address shared telecommunications and ICT development needs.

Australia’s Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, who attended the meeting, confirmed a Ministerial declaration between the parties, which she said would play an important role in guiding collaboration and cooperation in cross-national digital initiatives.

The meeting also discussed a range of issues including ICT-related challenges faced by the Pacific, improving regional coordination and strengthening engagement in organisations like the International Telecommunication Union – the United Nations specialised agency for telecommunications and ICTs.

The ministerial declaration is also expected to help bridge gaps in the region’s digital transformation capability and inclusion, as well as foster innovation that will empower local communities.

Australia’s commitment to the Pacific includes reaffirming its dedication to developing strong partnerships with its Pacific neighbours to uplift cybersecurity and build resilience in the region through the 2023-2030 Cyber Security Strategy.

Australia is also partnering with the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea on the delivery of the Coral Sea Cable system and is supporting the establishment, training and development of national computer emergency response teams, cyber strategies, cybercrime legislation and online safety awareness campaigns across several Pacific states.

These will provide trusted mechanisms for governments in the region to reach out during crises such as those demonstrated following cyber-attacks affecting Vanuatu, Tonga and Thailand, the Minister said.

“Connectivity and digital inclusion are key to unlocking economic potential and linking our regions. It underpins accessibility, equity of services and keeps people and communities connected and informed,” Rowland reiterated.

“The Australian Government will continue its ongoing support to Pacific Island countries and territories.

 Today’s dialogue is an opportunity to reflect on recent developments in our respective countries, and to reaffirm our shared vision for a safe and resilient region through our joint Declaration – the Lagatoi Declaration on Digital Transformation of the Pacific,” the Minister said during the meeting.

She stressed that although Australia was not a nation of vast island archipelagos, it was a nation of vast remote and regional areas that shared the same problems.

“We share many of the same hurdles to providing universal ICT services, and ultimately close the digital divide. As new technologies evolve, so do harms. But with these shared challenges, come opportunities for continued collaboration and cooperation to address these issues.

“As a member of the Pacific family, Australia remains committed to working with our counterparts, by supporting digital innovation, entrepreneurship and skills development through knowledge exchange and trainings; building resilient infrastructure with targeted investment; and ensuring security and trust in ICT ecosystem through capacity building initiatives and awareness campaigns.”

She said that Australia would continue amplifying its “Pacific voice on the global stage” – calling on development partners to recognise an exceptional set of challenges faced by the region and to respect cultural values and traditional knowledge.

“We know that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is neither effective nor sustainable.

“To that end, we have partnered with our Pacific colleagues and the International Telecommunication Union to deliver a project that will identify the best sustainable solutions to address telecommunication and ICT development needs of the Pacific Island countries and territories.”