Thank you Mr. Chair;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Vanuatu joins other esteemed speakers in congratulating Your Excellency, Mr. Wonki Min for taking up the Chairmanship for this 19th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. We believe that under your able leadership you will successfully guide our deliberations to its conclusion with fruitful and positive outcomes.
Firstly, the government of the Republic of Vanuatu recognises, promotes and utilizes the role of ICTs/telecommunications as a key enabler for socio-economical and environmentally sustainable development. Let me begin by giving a summary of our accomplishments. Our success started in the year 2008 when our telecommunications market was liberalised, then with an estimate 15% of the population accessing telecommunications services to a current estimate of 93% in just over 6 years. But we are not stopping here, our Universal Access Policy mandates our operators through a "Pay" or "Play" approach to connect 98% of our population to data and voice by 1January 2018.
Our government has recently approved 3 key national policies, namely the National ICT policy, the Universal Access Policy and Cybersecurity policy to lead our technological ambitions. We have a competent and independent telecommunications and radiocommunications regulator; in 2013 we connected to our first submarine cable; we established the only internet exchange point in the south pacific; we have an open telecommunications market and we will continue with support from ITU and our development partners to ensure a socially inclusive and equitable access to ICTs/telecommunications services and development to bridge the digital divide.
In support of our UA initiatives, we have identified 3 market development programs to; 1) connect all 514 schools to broadband internet, 2) distribute tablets to 80,000 students and 3) install internet cafes in unserved areas to increase access hence achieve our 98% target. We are doing so through a grant application program funded by the UAP Fund to stimulate a sustainable market and safe use of ICTs/telecommunications. We are pleased to say that our first 35 successful applications have been selected out of 369 applications we received.
While we celebrate our accomplishments we are mindful of the challenges that fast changing and evolving technologies bring to our rather conservative society. Vanuatu as a small island state is ranked top in the world prone to natural disasters, hence, we need robust ICT solutions. We are also culturally diverse for a population of approximately 260,000 people (where 75% live in rural areas), with 125 distinctive languages and cultures, need "access" to preserve our rich culture. Our multistakeholder approach works very well for Vanuatu! And it is important to have regard to our international and regional commitments, including rights and duties as a member of the ITU. To this extent, Vanuatu seeks to be an active and constructive player, without prejudice to its sovereignty, and to closely coordinate our actions and positions. We do value learning from experiences of other countries, and note synergies and cost efficiencies that could be achieved in designing, implementing, or advocating certain initiatives on a regional or international level.
In conclusion, the government of the Republic of Vanuatu moving forward supports ITU’s Connect 2020 framework and vision for "an information society, empowered by the interconnected world, where telecommunications/ICTs enable and accelerate social, economic, and environmentally sustainable growth and development for everyone." I do hope that the statements and the deliberations that we make at this conference will translate into concrete actions that will lead to a better future for all our people and the wider international community.
Long live our aspirations and may God bless the International Telecommunications Union and its members as we strive together,
I thank you Mr. Chair