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Minister seeks internet 'access for all'

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Fiji Ministry of Information News Release 26/01/01

SUVA: All citizens of Fiji should have access to information technology so that they can enjoy the economic benefits that it brings, says the Minister for Information and Communications, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

Ratu Inoke made the comments while announcing the setting up of Fiji's first Information Technology Advisory Council in Suva today.

"One of my key priorities is to ensure that in the short term as many Fiji citizens as possible have access to the internet and information technology such that they can reap the benefits of the information technology revolution," he said.

Ratu Inoke said he hoped the setting up of the Information Technology Advisory Council was the first step towards achieving this goal.

"I am hoping that this committee comes up with recommendations to help us achieve this as there is a grave danger that technology and the rest of the world will pass us by.

"Much needs to be done within Fiji to improve access to IT, especially to rural areas, otherwise we will be facing the consequences of this in years to come in the form of a digital divide between the rural and urban areas, and between the poor and the rich.

"This must not be the case. If people in the isolated rural areas of Fiji - and they are mostly indigenous Fijians - are to play a meaningful part in the economy, they must have access to IT.

"It is imperative that the industry incumbents who have had monopolies for many years take the initiative that they have not taken over the past few years. If they don't, the government would have to ensure these people do not miss out. If they don't, the government would have to ensure these people do not miss out by putting in place the appropriate policies."

Ratu Inoke said it had become obvious that the quality of service in the telecom sector needed to be improved.

"Any consumer will tell you that. And users of the internet in Fiji will tell you how expensive and frustrating it is to use the internet in Fiji."

The minister said this led the Government recently to issue licences to two new internet service providers (ISP).

The Communications Minister said access to the internet and information technology would bring obvious side benefits in tele-health and distance education to all people of Fiji.

"Information technology developments are moving very fast, changing almost on a daily basis. In fact, information technology is driving the economies of many countries around the world. So we must harness the power of information technology to assist in our education, our ways of doing business and in how we communicate and live our daily lives."

Fiji's first Information Technology Advisory Council is chaired by Yashwant Gaunder, managing director of the media, internet and telecom company The Review Group. Other members of the committee are:

Winston Thompson (TFL) Pushp Naidu Sailasa Tagenisia (ITC) Silika Tuivanuavou (FLIS) (Mrs) Josua Turaganivalu (TRU) V N Buatoka (PSIC) Hans Danford (Inland Revenue) Timoci Ledua (FINTEL) Sunia Baikeirea (National Planning Office)



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