Mr Ismail Raushan Zahir, Second Secretary
On Information and Communication Technologies for Development (Maldives)
13 October 2017
My delegation wishes to align its statement with the one delivered by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the statement delivered by Ecuador on behalf the Group of 77 and China. I also wish to thank the Secretary General for his report on this agenda item, and extend my appreciation to the presenters at the start of this session for their analysis.
Information and communication technology is widely recognized as a powerful instrument in achieving sustainable development, especially through poverty eradication, providing access to education and healthcare, enabling better disaster risk management and promoting economic growth and social cohesion.
As a small state comprising 1190 small islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean with great distances within our atolls as also to neighbouring countries, harnessing the potential of ICTs in all aspects of our development strategy is a priority area for my government. The dispersed nature of the population of the country is a unique challenge to our development. The 186 inhabited islands of the country are scattered over an archipelago more than 800 km long, and out of these, 131 islands have fewer than 1000 people. This extreme dispersal of the population combined with inherent constraints in transportation systems to certain islands, results in diseconomies of scale and higher service delivery costs. In fact, the cost of providing and maintaining socio economic services in the Maldives is often 4-5 times higher than in other SIDS.
Recognizing that ICT is the key to addressing a number of these issues, the Government has formulated policies which enhance increasing ICT coverage throughout the country. There have been a number of government led projects to leverage the transformative powers of information and communication technologies through better awareness and capacity building. The Government has also created an enabling environment in the private sector, which is also well regulated resulting in more widespread and affordable access to these services. The Maldives currently has 100% telecomm coverage across the archipelago as well as internet on most inhabited islands. This connectivity has created better opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses throughout all our islands, and also strengthened links with the rest of the world. It has also enabled greater financial inclusion of more remote communities in the formal banking sector through mobile banking projects
New technologies are also being utilized in the more traditional sectors like fisheries and tourism, enabling more efficient and productive output. The majority of fishing vessels have GPS enabling the tracking of fish, and the services provided in the tourism sector have become more streamlined and eco-friendly through new technologies. The adoption of environmentally sound technologies and practices are central to realizing a low carbon economy – one of the key priority areas for my government.
ICT is also incorporated into the education and learning systems at public schools and institutions, and distance learning is also now widely used as means of delivering education, especially in remote islands. This has resulted in more comprehensive and quality education which is more accessible to all.
Propagation of ICT and better access to media has also helped raise awareness and made the population more engaged with the Government’s sustainable development policies, as well as the broader 2030 Agenda. This has facilitated transformative action from a grassroots level, complementing the implementation of the SDGs.
As highlighted, ICT deployment has been identified as a major option for employment generation and fostering economic growth in the country. However, Capacity building and transfer of technologies remain the backbone of all our initiatives. We also reiterate our call that such mechanisms be on concessional and favourable terms, and appropriate according to the circumstances required.
Thank you Mr Chair.