The signing of an agreement for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Manatua Polynesian cable project shows the Pacific has come of age in harnessing the opportunities provided by telecommunications,” says prime minister Henry Puna.

Addressing the breakout session for governments at the 21st Pacific Telecommunications Association (PITA) annual general meeting in Rarotonga on Tuesday, Puna said these were “exciting times” for the region.

The final signing process for the Manatua cable agreement between the government of the French Republic on behalf of French Polynesia and the governments of Niue, Samoa and the Cook Islands coincided with the PITA 21st AGM and Tradeshow,

Puna said the signing was a significant demonstration of trust and cooperation between “our Polynesian brothers and sisters” to improve telecommunications and connectivity among the Cook Islands and the rest of the world.

“I believe extraordinary opportunities lie ahead. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and in particular broadband networks, offer perhaps the greatest opportunity we have ever had to make rapid and profound advances in Pacific economic and social development.”

The Manatua Polynesian Connectivity Project will result in a submarine cable system connecting Samoa and French Polynesia, with branching units to Niue, Rarotonga and Aitutaki. It will also be the first significant project to date involving Polynesian cooperation.

Samoa’s Minister of Communications & Information Technology ICT minister, Afamasaga Lepuia’i Rico Tupai, said: “The Manatua Cable Project is a historic and tangible example of Polynesian cooperation.

“Through this partnership our nations have committed to delivering fast, reliable and affordable internet services which will help improve the lives of our people; and assist in social and economic development.”

“The Tui Samoa Cable which will connect Samoa from Fiji will commence in September and we are wanting to have that completed by the end of this year.

“The question we needed to ask ourselves “, he continued, “was how can we build an ICT for Samoa that we can be proud of. And now that we have achieved that, how can we be of relevance and assistance to our Pacific neighbours and turn into a reality what we have often discussed in the Pacific as one, assisting each other and helping each other where we are able to?”

Niue’s Telecommunications minister, Dalton Tagelagi said Niue was on the cusp of technological change.

“With the Manatua Cable we can finally look forward to fast, affordable and reliable internet services. The Manatua cable will empower social and economic development in Niue.

“We will be able to access health, educational and business online platforms and drive ICT growth in our country and region. The special partnership between our nations demonstrates a commitment towards a common goal; to improve the lives of our Polynesian people.”

Niue has been transformed in the last few years by the government deciding to run ICT as a business model said Dalton, and it was run now by a board of directors.

“The only time government gives guidance is when legislation needs to underpin this business model.”

“The chief executive of Niue Telecom, Colin Talamahina, said Niue had a shared vision which was important to the island in its connection to the world.

Tuvalu’s Telecommunications minister, Monise Laafai said effective, user-friendly and reliable, affordable and most importantly secure telecommunications, were key components of Tuvalu’s communication plan.

“Meeting as ministers is a great opportunity for us in the Pacific to get together and talk about our connectivity.

Cabinet minister Faipule Mose Pelasio from Tokelau spoke of opportunities and strategies the island nation faced among their low-lying atolls.

“Part of our national development plan is the focus around health, transport and education with ICT meeting social, geographical and political realities.

“ICT is the way forward to overcome the challenges of remoteness and isolation.

“As a small Pacific island territory we trust in the spirit of working with our Pacific Islands neighbours for a better digital society in the Pacific.”

Puna summed up the discussions by saying they made obvious the partnerships that were happening across the region.

“Partnerships between Governments, telecommunication providers and communities working together, come up with solutions that will improve connectivity amongst ourselves and the rest of the world.”

  – Release/CS