REMARKS: SG Puna at the Launch of the USAID Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership- Pacific

Remarks and Speeches
18 August 2023

Remarks by Pacific Islands Forum

Secretary General Henry Puna

Launch of the USAID Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership- Pacific

17 August 2.00pm

USP Japan-Pacific ICT Centre Theatre



  • Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Communication of the Republic of Fiji, Honourable Manoa Kamikamica



  • USP Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia



  • USAID Assistant Administrator Michael Schiffer



  • USAID Fiji Mission Director Ms Zema Semunegus



  • Colleagues and friends




  • Last year, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders launched the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
  • In doing so, they painted a vision for a resilient Pacific Region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity, that ensures all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy and productive lives.
  • As part of our journey to achieve that vision, we aspire to a future in which all Pacific peoples benefit from access to affordable, safe and reliable ICT infrastructure, systems and operations, while ensuring culturally sensitive user-protection and cyber security.
  • It is fair to say, that we have many challenges ahead in the way we develop, use and secure ICT technology.
  • Pacific peoples pay some of the highest prices for internet services anywhere in the world. In PNG, mobile data costs 19% of the average monthly per capita income - significantly more expensive than the global average, of only 1%.
  • Many of our peoples live in remote parts of our Blue Pacific Continent, outside of the range of ICT networks. Indeed, only 45% of the Pacific population had access to a 4G mobile network or better, in 2021.
  • And where we do have good access to these networks, we are facing new and rapidly evolving risks to our security.
  • We know we need to work hard, to develop our ICT technology across the region.
  • We know we need to work smarter, to ensure our limited resources are put to good use.
  • And most importantly of all, we know Pacific Island peoples are up to the challenge.
  • In November this year, Leaders will reunite in Rarotonga, my home country, for their annual meeting to launch an Implementation Plan for the 2050 Strategy. The Implementation Plan takes stock of the many efforts across the region already underway and sets out a range of new key actions that we as a region will undertake, to move us closer to our leaders’ vision.
  • And of course, in the meantime, we continue apace to develop our ICT capabilities, through a range of efforts across the region.
  • In just over a week, our region’s ICT Ministers will gather in Port Moresby, to highlight their commitment to support the achievement of our Leaders’ vision, by supporting the coordinated development of ICT technology, in the Pacific.
  • In November, Pacific Officials will meet to spearhead the acceleration of e-commerce in the region, as part of the Pacific E-commerce Initiative.
  • Our cybersecurity officials will gather in Port Vila next month, to share experiences of responding to cybersecurity threats and attacks.
  • And while there are many ongoing efforts, we know that it is not enough.
  • We need support from our Partners to help us develop ‘safe and reliable ICT infrastructure, systems and operations’.
  • And with that in mind, it brings me great pleasure to be here today, to witness the launch of this very generous initiative.
  • The United States has been a friend and partner of the Pacific, including as a Forum Dialogue Partner, for many many years.
  • The launch of this project signifies a step further, in solidifying that partnership.
  • And while the size of the support being provided is immense, and worthy of sincere thanks in its own right… for me, and for the Pacific Islands Forum, the manner in which this program has been designed is most important.
  • You have listened to Forum Leaders’ call in the Boe Declaration on Regional Security, and 2050 Strategy. And you have chosen to partner closely with existing Pacific institutions, including the Forum, and our dear friends here, at the University of the South Pacific.
  • So, we look forward to working closely with you in the coming weeks, months and years, as we navigate the challenges of ICT development and cybersecurity together, in partnership.
  • Thank you.