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A Keynote Speech at World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Side Event at UNU

By Hiroshi Kakazu, Professor of Nichidai
January 12, 2003

(Japanese .pdf also available)

It is my great honor to present a very short speech on behalf of the Pacific Islands Digital Opportunity Research Committee (PIDO). Especially, I would like to thank the participants who endured a long journey from the warm, far-distanced South Pacific to cold Tokyo. It is also my great honor to have distinguished ministers and ambassadors. Your presence would greatly enhance the status of today's conference.

The conference was promptly arranged last December with the collaborative efforts of GKP, FDC, PEACESAT, GLOCOM, infoDev and ADB. Once again, I would like to thank those who struggled to realize this forum, particularly to Ms. Rieko Hayakawa of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.

As some of you well aware, PIDO started in April 2002 as a project of the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund. The major objective of this Committee is not only to identify problems and issues related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) , but in view of Japan's role as an important donor country in the Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs), we are responsible for collaborating and assisting their ICT capacity and capability building. As buzz-worded by "digital divide", we are afraid that the PICTs are being bypassed from the world-wide trend of the ICT Revolution.

Although the problems and issues encountered by the PICTs must be resolved by their own initiative, we would like to let you know that we are available to assist and promote PICTs initiative through such meetings. I am again very pleased to have this gathering as a side event of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

The Pacific Islands are not only scattered in the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, but they are also fragmented into mini islands within their own territories and are located far from major markets. Smallness and remoteness naturally make them dependent on foreign trade and resources. It is no doubt that ICT will make these small, isolated nations more accessible to useful knowledge and information, thereby contributing to their socio-economic development. High-powered ICT such as satellite communications and marine cables are becoming important tools particularly in the areas of basic human needs (BHN) such as life-saving activities, education, and health care. For many years, Japan has engaged in collaborative research with PEACESAT of the University of Hawaii and also supported experiments of PARTNERS and upgrades of the UPSNet as a part of international satellite cooperative projects.

Although Japan's ODA to the Pacific island countries accounts for only 1% of its total ODA disbursement, it is the third most important donor country in the region followed by Australia and the United States. This, of course, reflects Japan's sense of insurality as well as solidarity with those islands surrounded by the same Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government is scheduled to host the 3rd Pacific Islands' Leaders Summit in May 2003. Since I was born on the island of Okinawa, I have been struggling to help bridge the so-called digital divide between here and Okinawa. If my efforts succeed, then I am confident that the digital gap between the Pacific Islands and their neighbors will be resolved.

Lastly, we used to question ourselves "whether the vast Pacific Ocean separates each one of us, or it connects." Before the ICT Revolution, it's function was to divide us. But now it increasingly functions as a catalyst. Consequently, the Pacific Island countries and Japan are now evolving towards a greater Asia-Pacific Community together with the other PECC/APEC member counties. I strongly believe that the Pacific Island nations and Japan should join hand in hand to establish joint ICT strategies so that we can derive the maximum possible mutual benefit from our common asset, namely the Pacific Ocean.

Thank you for your attention.

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