UN Working Closely with Pacific Island Nations to Develop Internet Access

The Kingdom of Tonga, like many Pacific Island nations, has been working to build up its information and communication technology (ICT) capacity to help overcome some of the challenges presented by geography – its population is scattered over many small islands.

The United Nations is helping Tonga to realize this goal by equipping its government officials with the basic knowledge and skills required to better use ICT for social and economic development. 30 senior officials will attend a two-day workshop, 24-25 February, in the capital, Nukuálofa, organized by the United Nations Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT). Based in Incheon, Republic of Korea, APCICT is a regional institution of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Universal access to ICT services has been high on the agenda of the government of Tonga. In 2000, less then one percent of Tonga’s citizens had access to a cell phone, and less then five percent had internet access. However, within a six year period, the proportion of population having cell phones has grown to 30 per cent, and recently a public-private partnership brought GSM wireless networking to several of the country’s islands, giving them larger cell phone coverage and broadband Internet.

“Human resources have to be developed alongside ICT programmes in order to ensure that they are sustainable and will have a real impact on the population,” said APCICT Director Ms. Hyeun-Suk Rhee, “particularly in the Pacific where countries are faced with challenges imposed by the small scale and scattered nature of their populations and markets.”

In order to capitalize on Tonga’s momentum, APCICT has adapted its Academy of ICT Essentials for Government Leaders training programme specifically for the workshop using case studies from other Pacific Island nations.

The Academy is an eight-module training programme designed to help equip policymakers with essential knowledge and skills to embrace ICT as a means for national development. The courses cover subjects ranging from the link between ICT and development to e-government applications.

The workshop has been organized in collaboration with Tonga’s Ministry of Finance and the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC).

APCICT has been working closely with over a dozen regional and national training institutions across Asia and the Pacific to customize, translate and deliver the Academy that take national needs and priorities into account. For more information about the Academy, please visit http://www.unapcict.org/academy.