1. E-government and ICT in the Pacific region

“The Pacific Islands are experiencing a digital transformation that could have major implications, particularly for democratic governance and potentially for the region’s development. Some of the fastest-growing rates of mobile phone uptake in the world are changing the way Pacific Islanders communicate, learn, engage in political debate, co-ordinate activities and access services.” 1

The rapid uptake of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and digital technologies in particular, has revolutionized social, political and economic landscapes in the Pacific. Although Pacific countries have experienced rapid ICT progress and change, the region as a whole continues to face significant ICT challenges:

  • Geographical divide: population spread over widely dispersed islands
  • Small population relative to geographical spread
  • Poor Infrastructure: Transport, ICT, and energy
    • Tele-density around 10%
    • Mobile density in opened markets >50%
    • Broadband Internet penetration of 1–4%
  • Lack of human capacity
  • Lack of appropriate legislation Outdated policy and legislative frameworks2

The Communication Action Plan (CAP, 1999), Pacific Islands ICT Policy and Plan (PIIPP, 2002) and the Pacific Plan Digital Strategy (PPDS, 2005) have provided direction for ICT development in the region and were key precursors to the regional Framework for Action on ICT for Development in the Pacific (FAIDP, 2010).3 The FAIDP outlines a regional framework to develop and improve ICTs to support development, and in particular, to strengthen governance and sustainable livelihoods. The FAIDP identifies inequality of access by disadvantaged groups, including women, as an issue that needs to be addressed, stating:

“ICT interventions must address the need to reduce inequities, promote access by youth and the disabled, promote gender sensitivity and culture, improve efforts to reduce poverty across and within countries and territories, and facilitate equitable access to adequate, reliable and affordable ICT and services to improve Pacific communities’ livelihoods”.4

Although the FAIDP identifies connecting disadvantaged groups (including women) as a priority, the Framework does not include a gendered strategy to address gender inequality in ICT access.5 The absence of a ‘gender vision’ is likely driven by a lack of information on women’s ICT needs, access and use, but is also symptomatic of underlying gender inequalities.

“Data on the gender divide in the use of ICTs does not exist for most of the Asia-Pacific region. But what is known is that most of the barriers women face in accessing ICTs are the same ones they face when accessing education or economic opportunity of any kind, illiteracy, lack of awareness, poverty, lack of time, low confidence and self-esteem, and socio-cultural norms that restrict mobility. Other barriers to women’s access to ICTs can be summed up in three major categories: content relevance, availability and usage.”6

In 2011, the Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting in Noumea endorsed in principle, a Pacific Regional ICT Strategic Action Plan (PRISAP). The PRISAP would provide an implementation plan for the FAIDP and identify stakeholders to take ownership of specifically defined action items. There is a draft PRISAP7, but as of 2015, the PRISAP has not been finalised.8 A review of the FAIDP9 in 2014 found that challenges identified in the FAIDP remain and the lack of a cohesive development pathway for ICT development in the Pacific can be attributed to the absence of PRISAP.10


  1. Cave, Danielle (2012), “Digital Islands: How the Pacific’s ICT Revolution is Transforming the Region’, Lowry Institute for International Policy, http://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/digital-islands-how-pacifics-ict-revolution- transforming-region, Retrieved 8 November 2015, pp 3.
  2. Secretariat of the Pacific Community (2010), New Roadmap for Pacific: The Framework for Action on ICT for Development in the Pacific, ICT Outreach Programme (PICTO), Economic Development Division, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/7-Mr-Siaosi-Sovaleni-SPC.pdf, Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  3. Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (2010), Framework for Action on ICT for Development in the Pacific (FAIDP): Information and communication technology (ICT) for development, governance and sustainable livelihoods, June 2010. The FAIDP was formulated in response to the call by Pacific Leaders at the 40th Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns (August 2009) for the Pacific Plan Digital Strategy (PPDS) to be reviewed and updated.
  4. Guiding principle 5 ‘Sustainable livelihoods, culture, equity and gender’ Ibid, pp 5.
  5. STRATEGY 2.2.5: Promote and encourage access to and use of ICT by disadvantaged groups such as women, the disabled and youth (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat et al., (2010), pp 9
  6. Reddi, U. (2011), ‘Linkages between ICT applications and meaningful development’, The Academy of ICT Essentials for Government Leaders Module Series Module 1, United Nations Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (UN-APCICT/ESCAP), pp 59.
  7. Pacific Regional ICT Strategic Action Plan (PRISAP) 2015–2020 Draft v.2 CROP ICT Working Group University of the South Pacific, Suva, 2014
  8. Concept Note Pacific ICT Ministerial & Officials Meetings 2015 17‐19 June 2015, Nuku’alofa, Tonga
  9. A Review of the 2010 FAIDP v.7 (2014) Secretariat Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific ICT Working Group
  10. Concept Note Pacific ICT Ministerial & Officials Meetings 2015 17‐19 June 2015, Nuku’alofa, Tonga