“Where do you want Samoa to be?”
This was the question the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (M.C.I.T.), Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, posed to members of the private sector on Wednesday night.
He was one of the key speakers at the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting held at Hotel Elisa.
For Afamasaga, he is a man with a vision. He wants Samoa to become the “tech haven” of the Pacific and to be compared to countries like Singapore.
As the Minister driving the sector, Afamasaga said the government is serious about realising his dream.
That’s why the Ministry has hired Tony Rosenburg, who was instrumental in helping Singapore become the “Asian hub” it is today, to help.
“Tony Rosenberg has been hired by the Ministry to develop our sector plan,” he revealed.
“We hired Tony for his experience as someone who was very heavily involved in the reforms in Singapore. That’s our benchmark, in terms of I.C.T. That’s where we’re looking at.
“The level of I.C.T. and the way I.C.T. is changing businesses and changing the landscape and lives in Singapore, that’s our benchmark in terms of I.C.T. development.”
The Minister said I.C.T. is a development at the heart of businesses and it cross cuts any development.
Afamasaga also shed light on the Ministry’s plan regarding the Tui Samoa Cable as well as several other cables in the pipeline.
Afamasaga proudly declared that the Tui Samoa Cable will be up and running by December.
“The work is on time,” he said.
“The survey is done and that means the cable manufacturing will start soon. The cable will be here end of July and the installation will start. It will actually arrive in Samoa beginning of October but there will be some testing period before it’s switched on.”
He also announced that there would be a second cable coming to Samoa called the Manatua Cable.
“When one Cable comes, there’s going to be a question, what if this cable cuts off?”
“Well ladies and gentlemen, we have another cable that will arrive next year and it’s in the development phase at the moment called the Manatua Cable.
“This cable comes from Tahiti. It connects Tahiti, Cook Islands and picks up Niue. At the moment we’re negotiating with Tonga to jump on the same cable and land in Samoa.”
“If something happens to Tui Samoa Cable we have another cable that will take us out to the world. “The government’s plan is that if something happens to one cable we have another outlet so connectivity is uninterrupted.”
Furthermore, he said the likelihood of Samoa having two cables has attracted much attention from overseas investors. So much so that there has been a third cable to come to Samoa that is in the works.
“As we are negotiating this cable, others are looking in. The world is looking in. And they are seeing Samoa is going to have two cables. “When we were in Hawaii earlier this year, Southern Cross approached us. We started discussions and these discussions are ongoing at the moment.
“If Southern Cross comes to us, we have already signed the letter of intent. The plan is Southern Cross to arrive here by 2019. That means we will have three cables by 2019.”
But with great power comes great responsibility.
And the Minister assured that the Ministry is already working on a regional plan to best utilize the connectivity Samoa will soon have.
“With all these cables, what are we going to use it for?” the Minister asked.
“We are working on a regional plan, not just a Samoa plan. We’re going to build a data centre. In this data centre, we’re going to host applications like e-health, e-government, e-education. We‘re talking to U.S.P. to put all their educational content in here.
“We’ve talked to Facebook already and we’re developing a data centre that’s Tier 3 level. Tier 3 will be acceptable for Google, Facebook, Amazon, Ali Baba. We’ll bring all this here and sharing with the whole region of South Pacific.”
Afamasaga envisions Samoa as being the ‘tech hub’ of the Pacific.
“We will be in a position to enable other economies around us,” he said.
“I’m talking about Wallis and Futuna, Niue, Tonga. By 2020, possibly 10 or 12 islands will be connected, with the hub being Samoa. It will be good business for us.
“From Samoa’s position we will have a lot of cable and great capacity. We will need to share this capacity. Some will be shared for other services. That’s why we need to become a hub.”