the Republic of Maldives on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States
Agenda Item 16: ICT for Development
13 October 2016
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Let me begin by aligning ourselves with the statement made by the distinguished representative of Thailand on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
As small island developing states, that recognise the potential of ICTs to transform our lives and yet, at the same time are unable to capitalise on all the gains that could be made, this agenda item is very important. Last year, AOSIS actively participated in the WSIS+10 review and has generally been satisfied with its outcomes. However, we must continue our efforts to bridge and not further exacerbate the digital divide.
The 2030 Agenda and its implementation rely heavily on the development and transfer of ICT technologies. The information age and the benefits accruing from it permeate all aspects of sustainable development. Indeed, Target 4(b) specifically speaks to substantially increasing ICTs for education in SIDS by 2020 and Goal 9, which deals with infrastructure and innovation, includes a target to significantly increase access to ICTs. General Assembly resolution 70/125 also calls for close alignment between the WSIS process and the 2030 Agenda, highlighting ICTs' crosscutting contribution to the SDGs and poverty eradication.
AOSIS is also heartened to note the emphasis in the SG's report on the effects of ICT deployment on SIDS. The Secretary General's report notes that ICTs are being used in support of early warning systems for natural disasters and emergency communications. However, clearly more work remains to be done and we need to understand through needs based and technology based assessments in what ways and in what areas ICT needs to be transferred and how access can be incentivized.
Access to and dissemination of ICTs in the scattered populations of island states remains a challenge. For instance, the ITU report notes many small island states have relatively high mobile cellular prices compared to GNI per capital levels, which makes affordable access problematic. There is also the issue of lack of adequate and appropriate infrastructure to support the development and deployment of ICT, as well as the capacity and capability for more effective use. The report notes that this is because of small population sizes and particular aspects of geography that limits the number of operators able to sustainably compete in the market. We need to work more closely for a comprehensive approach and targeted policies to overcome such obstacles.
As is well known, SIDS are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, often owing to our remote locations and limited resources. We need to develop policies to increase self-reliance of local economies, trade and tourism, food production and the health of the population in the face of climate change and increasing frequency of natural disasters. ICTs are able to very effectively help in this regard by use of early warning systems, utilisation in evacuation efforts or even to effectively communicate critical information to the public. ICTs are already being used in disaster risk reduction through advancements in remote sensing, geographic information systems, seismic surveillance systems, improved tsunami monitoring networks and even using ICTs to streamline emergency warning capabilities.
However, extreme weather events also pose a significant threat to the stable operation of a host of critical infrastructure systems, including telecommunications. In particular, extreme weather events have the potential to compromise major communication backbones, such as the Internet, which rely largely on fixed data connections and power supplies. Especially in SIDS, therefore, we need to devise strategies to increase access to other kinds of communication devices that could facilitate the operation of essential services and emergency management when backbone communication infrastructure is lost during natural disasters.
The potential of information and communication technologies in island states is vast – it helps us in reducing barriers of distance, improves service delivery within and between our island nations, helps in reducing costs for those service deliveries, while also improving tourism, enhancing economic growth and most importantly helping us work effectively together.
Mr. Chairman, SIDS, like all other countries, big or small, vulnerable or with robust economies, have seen the revolutionary momentum that knowledge societies have brought forth. This is why the SAMOA Pathway, also clearly identified the need for enhanced access and use of ICT infrastructure networks for sustaining high levels of economic growth. ICTs are the true means of implementation for many of our goals and aspirations and I urge the international community to work together to realize and harness the true potential and opportunity presented by them.
I thank you.