Creative industries meet tech platforms in ‘Pacific Connect’ session

Networking and people power is the central tenet behind Australia’s Pacific Connect programme held in Samoa this week for creative industry leaders to meet, develop ideas and get digital.

Pacific Connect is a pilot program of the Australian Government and is implemented by the non-profit International Centre for Democratic Partnerships (I.C.D.P.). It is a two-year pilot from October 2017 until September 2019, and is running in Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga.

I.C.D.P. Chief Executive Simone Pensko said the strategy behind Pacific Connect is to build relationships between Australian and Pacific Islanders who are not bound by hierarchy or agenda. 

“We have designed the event to maximise opportunities for people to interact,” Ms Pensko said.

This is done using a "second track approach", she explained. This is an informal, unofficial style of interacting – the opposite of a diplomatic or bilateral meeting, for example.

When people are in the room as individuals, not as their organisation or nation, they can more deeply get to know one another and find opportunities to share and support each other.

Sialei Viali is a creative entrepreneur who explores different mediums to teach others for potential income. For the last four years she has been working with her women’s fellowship from her community in the Cornerstone Church in Vaivase to teach crochet, and has been successful finding an overseas market for the products they make.

“Obviously yarn is not useful in Samoa, in clothing, scarves and beanies. So we’re looking for outside markets, which incidentally we’ve found through family connections, and Facebook,” Ms Viali said.

She said she is still just learning who Pacific Connect and I.C.D.P. are, but is involved as a leader in the creative industry of Samoa.

The overarching theme for the dialogue is on digital futures, and the Samoan stakeholders identified that creative industries should be the focus within that theme.

“We’ve got people from Australia from entrepreneurs with creative industry businesses, we’ve got academics who teach creative industries, and on the Samoan side we have a couple of people from Tonga, some from New Zealand and the rest from Samoa’s creative industries.

“We have a basket weaver, a virtual reality technician,” Ms Pensko said.

Representing the digital world are SkyEye and Makeki Online, as well as a private programmer. They should be able to find ways to help creative business get digital reach and access to customers.

SkyEye Chief Executive Officer Fa'aso'otauloa Sam Saili said it’s all about access, and a great digital presentation when it comes to marketing creative industries.

The Pacific Connect project is part of Australia’s Pacific Step Up policy, which was first launched as part of a 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper. Australia has committed to greater engagement with the Pacific region, through partnerships on economic growth, security and between people.

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