Minister Leingkone appeals for cooperation among regional LDCs to achieve shared goals in broadband connectivity

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Leingkone © speaking at the opening of the Asia-Pacific regional LDCs broadband connectivity meeting at War Wick Le Lagon Resort. To his left is Ms. Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States and Vanuatu’s UN Ambassador Odo Tevi (on his right).

By Jonas Cullwick

Vanuatu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Leingkone, says Vanuatu has been making steady progress over the last decade in tackling many of the issues members of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) are facing in broadband connectivity.

Giving the keynote address at the opening of the two-day regional meeting for achieving sustainable development through enhanced broadband connectivity in Asia-Pacific least developed countries at the Le Lagon Warwick Resort in Port Vila Thursday, Minister Leingkone said that: “While we all recognize the power of broadband as an enabler of sustainable development to: foster collaboration, conduct business, inform us of impending danger from natural disasters and boosting health and education services, my country – and I am sure many of our fellow LDCs – continue to struggle with high cost, inadequate infrastructure and low levels of internet access for our peoples.”

Recognizing these challenges, he said Vanuatu has been making steady progress to tackle many of these issues. Liberalization of the telecommunications sector took place in 2007 which resulted in modern mobile infrastructure being rolled out and the landing of the submarine fiber optic cable in 2013 which boosted the international broadband connectivity. The ICT sector has experienced steady growth over the last decade.

“Also, an independent regulatory authority was created and the Government of Vanuatu has been focusing on policies which aim to achieve effective and efficient information and communication technologies. Our Universal Access Program (UAP) has increased coverage of mobile services and we are expecting to reach 98% of population coverage by the 1st of January 2018.

“Vanuatu believes that ICT is a key enabler to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which is also aligned with the ITU Connect 2020 Framework. These are among the efforts for which the primary goal is achieve our country’s National Vision of a just, educated, healthy and wealthy Vanuatu.”

The Vanuatu Minister said that while progress is being made at the national level, it is also encouraging that internationally, and the country is seeing greater focus on assisting LDCs in the technology sector.

“One of these success stories is the creation of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries.

“This new United Nations institution was made operational just last month on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and is designed to enhance Science Technology and Innovation capacity in the LDCs. “I am certain that the Technology Bank will be a great asset to all LDCs and going forward we – including our development partners and the private sector — should all support the bank to ensure its success.”

The Minister said that the focus of this meeting on broadband connectivity was especially a welcome for his country as it presented an important opportunity for Vanuatu to learn about the best practices and lessons learned from its fellow Asia-Pacific LDCs and also its Pacific island friends.

“While our primary aim over the next two days is to share successful experience in implementing broadband connectivity, I also encourage participants to reflect on the challenges our group of countries is facing.

“Understanding the challenges give us important opportunities to avoid things that do not work, and to focus our limited resources on the things that do,” he encouraged the meeting participants.

He said that no single country or organization can achieve the large goals the LDC countries have set for themselves. But in the spirit of collaboration, not only can they achieve but exceed their development aspirations together.

He thanked the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States for partnering with the Government of Vanuatu to make this meeting a reality.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: Cell # 678 5460922

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