P.M. unfazed by online attacker

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa ,

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Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is not overly concerned about being ruthlessly attacked online.

With Samoa embracing the age of fast internet technology, he knows the transition will bring many benefits, as well as many challenges. 

Such challenges include anonymous online bloggers who attack his government and other members of the public. One of them is 'Ole Palemia'. The blog has been on a crusade against Tuilaepa’s administration, some of his Cabinet ministers, and their families.

But Prime Minister Tuilaepa is unfazed by the personal attacks and claims against him, and the government in general.

 “We expect that kind of problem,” he told the Samoa Observer. “That’s the case in many governments today, it’s not just us facing these problems.”

The Prime Minister said the remedy is for Samoa to educate her sons and daughters in IT, and on cyber security, so they can protect themselves and other innocent people.

“When we have people who can track down people who are doing these sorts of things, it will be a disincentive for them to continue,” he said. “Keep in mind that our people are not fond of such activities as defaming people.”

One Samoan who might be able to help out is Samoa’s very own millionaire in Silicon Valley, Mike Baukes.

Mr Baukes is the co-founder of Upguard, which specialises in cyber security for private companies, corporations and governments.

Tuilaepa met with Mr Baukes when he was in Samoa, recently. Whether the damaging blogs against his reputation were on the agenda though, could not be ascertained. 

The Prime Minister is nonetheless excited about the possibilities when Samoa realises her grand dream to become the 'tech hub' of the Pacific region. Mr Baukes for one has expressed interest in expanding his business to Samoa.

 “They want to come back to set up their businesses here, which to me, is a God-sent development,” Tuilaepa said. “It has major benefits for us, especially in terms of developing and training our children.”

With the Tui Samoa Cable promising more access to faster internet technology, Tuilaepa said cyber security would become a critical component and experts, like Mr Baukes, can help Samoa a lot.

“It’s not just him -- there are other Samoans in New Zealand and Australia who are also interested.

“For Mike to express interest in branching out here, it’s a great development for Samoa, especially because these people are multi-millionaires. 

“So, when they do decide to come, they will play a very proactive role in developing our economy, especially their contribution to creating employment for our young people straight out of university.”

Tuilaepa is excited about the future. 

But that’s because he knows how far Samoa has come in terms of technology.

Asked to share his vision in terms of Samoa becoming the hub of ICT, the Prime Minister said you can't go forward unless you know the past.

“We should start from the beginning,” he said.

“In 1999, when most countries were on mobile phones, we only had analogue phones from NZ Telecom. It didn’t even reach Vailele. So up until 1999, we were lagging way behind. That’s when we moved to corporatise telecommunications and that’s when SamoaTel was created.”

In the beginning, there was Telecom Samoa Cellular, Digicel and SamoaTel.

Fast-forward to today and the landscape has completely changed.

With the Tui Cable plans in the works, the Prime Minister is excited about the National Broadband Network, especially the potential to boost medical care and education.

“We have been relying on the marine cable, ASH, that comes through American Samoa. The problem there is that its time has finished,” he said.

“Now we are looking at creating our own cable, a much more powerful cable. But we are also hooking up with other cables, which means there is a huge opening for us to become the hub of the Pacific.”

So far, Samoa has entered into agreements with French Polynesia, Tahiti, Cook Islands and Niue, Wallis and Futuna, Tokelau and Tuvalu.

 “I think Samoa’s position in the next five to ten years will be very strong in terms of IT development,” he said.

“Already there are companies looking at Samoa as a hub for call centres. We’re also looking at using it for education and medical purposes. If you look at OUM, all their learning is relying on the internet. There is already online training for students and teachers, so it’s a big development for all us.”

Clearly Prime Minister Tuilaepa has a lot on his plate.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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