The Republic of Maldives on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States
Agenda Item 17: Information and communication technologies for development
19 October 2018
- I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). We align ourselves with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative of Egypt on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
- We wish to thank the Secretary General for his Report on this agenda item. However, as in previous years, we urge that future reports specifically address the special circumstances of small island developing states, so that the findings and analysis enhance our knowledge of the current state of ICTs in SIDS. In this regard, we do place on record our acknowledgment of the Internet Society’s SIDS connectivity report referenced in the SG’s Report but urge more mainstreaming of its findings.
- The role of ICTs in the social, economic and financial life of SIDS cannot be overstated. SIDS are island-States characterized by geographical isolation, dispersed populations, and remoteness from markets. SIDS have made tremendous advances in connectivity over the last decade. In particular, mobile connectivity has improved significantly. Most SIDS are now connected to at least one submarine cable, enjoy quality internet access and are increasingly using technological innovations for many service deliveries. Despite the relative successes achieved in boosting connectivity, challenges remain, particularly when it comes to affordability and access.
- As the Internet Society’s report notes, challenges for ICTs in SIDS are threefold: demographics, isolation, and infrastructure vulnerability. Many SIDS have small populations scattered among many islands, and often have low levels of economic activity, limited sources of income, and poor integration into the global economy. Separation by open seas and great distances from sources of upstream connectivity makes a less attractive business case for downstream submarine cable connectivity serving smaller islands. Further, the low-lying nature of many of our islands, susceptibility to disasters, such as earthquakes and extreme weather events, and vulnerability to the effects of climate change mean that SIDS are more vulnerable to communications infrastructure disruption.
- Our challenges of access are further compounded by the knowledge divide on harnessing its potential and the lack of skills development. Global partnerships are urgently needed not just to address the hardware limitations we face but also in enabling education and awareness on utilizing ICTs strategically. As the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) recognized in 2015, the digital divide continues to grow between developed and developing countries - exacerbating inequalities globally.
- In most SIDS, ICTs have tremendous potential to upend traditional service deliveries in sectors as diverse as education, disaster risk reduction to financial services.
- Online access and tools are important for education, and are particularly relevant for small islands separated by large distances and suffering from shortages of teachers and materials. The availability of computers and usage of Internet in schools helps promote basic digital literacy, as well as more advanced skills that enable students to seek ICT-related careers.
- Leveraging ICTs is a significant component of disaster management. From early warning systems to communication during natural hazards as well as supply deliveries in the aftermath of extreme weather events - these are all critical technological responses. As the effects of climate change become more severe and pronounced, real time access to data and information on evacuation zones, especially to remote communities, become more important.
- ICTs have also helped significantly enhance financial inclusion in many islands that have traditionally been unbanked. The use of mobile banking has not only helped ease some of the challenges that arise from geographical dispersion but are increasingly also being used innovatively to combat recent challenges. The decline in correspondent banking relationships in many SIDS in Caribbean and Pacific have been a source of great concern. Remittances form a significant economic flow for many of our economies, and disruptions in correspondent banking relationships has had negative impacts on our already fragile economies. The use of mobile transfers and money services for remittances from large island diasporas has the potential to disrupt conventional money transfer options via banks and avoid otherwise catastrophic consequences.
- The dramatic rise of technologies and innovations in every part of the development cycle has been extremely beneficial to our communities but can also bring with it its own set of challenges. Through our collective action and global public policy measures we must ensure that the use of ICTs and their access is available to all, including our most vulnerable communities. We urge greater reporting and analysis on the impact of ICTs in the implementation of the SDGs which can be an important tool in tracking progress and measuring impacts.
- With this I thank you and wish you a productive session.