Samoa needs an internet complaints body

There needs to be a space for complaints about the internet in Samoa and other island nations, according to a representative of the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation. 

Acting secretary general and director of the I.C.T development department Gisa Fuatai Purcell said consumers, especially young girls, should have a government body to turn to when the cyber safety, privacy and data breaches occur.

During the Asia Pacific Telecommunity forum this week, a series of speakers gave presentations on cybersecurity and data protection for consumers.

While internet operators and internet service providers need to take their responsibilities to consumers seriously, policy makers and governments should be active in this area too, Mrs Purcell said.

“In other commonwealth countries, they have set up a security centre or Netsafe centre within the office of the regulator,” she explained.

It could be an expensive project, but worthwhile, she said.

“To do it properly, you would need a call centre and that costs a lot of money. You need a building, you need all the equipment. 

“But because we are small islands, it’s the same as other small commonwealth countries. A centre within the office of the regular would be the way to go.”

Mrs Purcell said Netsafe in New Zealand, for example, employs just eight staff to manage over four million people.

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“Samoa would need just three or four, because while the population is small, the queries will be many, I can guarantee that,” she said.

Australia’s assistant secretary for communications and the arts, Richard Bullock, presented a detailed explanation of Australia’s eSafety policy.

Mrs Purcell said their model is one that could be easily applied in Samoa, and Netsafe is one to look at too.

“I believe in not reinventing the wheel,” she said.

While Australia’s model is one of a separate eSafety commission, and the population is larger and more scattered, their internet issues are the same.

“Small island countries can adopt all or some of it that is relevant to their size.

“Most of the [eSafety policies] are good for Samoa,” she said.

Currently, people in Samoa with complaints or concerns about the internet have been travelling to New Zealand to have their voice heard by Netsafe and for action to be taken, she said.

People need somewhere to seek help, but there doesn’t appear to be anywhere in the Pacific islands to do that.

When Mrs Purcell asked the delegates to say by a show of hands which countries have a national body for internet complaints, only Australia said they did.

“But now, people have come up to me to say thank you for saying that, that’s food for thought,” Mrs Purcell said.

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