AGM Report to the members of the Cook Islands Internet Action Group (CIIAG)
2016 and the first half of 2017 have been a busy year for CIIAG members regionally and internationally.
CIIAG Vice President, Ano Tisam started a new job with the Forum Fisheries, setting up databases around the Pacific for the FFA. His new work involves doing systems analysis work for Tuna Information Systems within FFA member countries. His work involves identifying gaps that hinder progress of their ultimate goal which is to reduce illegal fishing in the Pacific. Their information system tracks tuna from when it is caught, through the fisheries supply chain, until it is served to the consumer who can scan a barcode with a mobile phone to check the history of the tuna being caught and whether this was done legally. Only legal fish are allowed to be exported/imported into various markets like the EU.
Another project Ano completed before setting off for FFA in the Solomon Islands, was to set up a counselling information system for Punanga Tauturu Inc. This data is used to justify funding requests and other management decisions made by this not-for-profit organization, in the interests of women at risk.
CIIAG President, Maureen Hilyard and Secretary, Pua Hunter continued in their respective roles with ICANN, attending meetings in Marrakech, Morocco; Helsinki, Finland; Hyderabad, India; Copenhagen, Denmark; and in June 2017, Johannesburg, South Africa. Maureen continued her second term as an Asia-Pacific representative on the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and Pua represents the Cook Islands on the Government Advisory Committee (GAC).
The final meeting of the year, ICANN’s AGM, will be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Because this is in the Asia Pacific region, this meeting will also be an opportunity for the 53 member organisations of the Asia, Australasian and Pacific Islands Regional At Large Organisation (APRALO) to send a representative to attend its General Assembly to discuss regional domain name and other internet governance issues. It is hoped that an additional member can attend the general assembly on behalf of CIIAG.
Meetings attended during 2016 and up to June 2017:
- With other APRALO Leadership team members from Armenia, Bahrain, China and India Maureen attended the APRICOTconferences in Auckland, NZ (February 2016) and in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam (February 2017).
- At the APNIC meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka (September 2016), Maureen chaired the AP* Meeting which gathers together all the internet-related organisations in the Asia Pacific region to report on their activities. AP* meetings are held on the day prior to the start of the APRICOT and APNIC meetings.
- Maureen was inducted onto the Dot Asia Board at the APRICOT meeting in Auckland – for the start of her 2 year term, and also attended other face-to-face meetings of the Board at the APrIGF in Taipei (July) and in Hong Kong (November). Their first meeting of 2017 was held at the APRICOT meeting in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam (February).
APRALO Leadership Team (left) and the Dot Asia Board (right) at APRICOT 2016
- Maureen attended the China Internet Forum in Beijing, at the invitation of the Internet Society of China, along with other APRALO leaders, Siranush Vardanyan (Armenia), Satish Babu (India) and Kaili Kan (China – who coordinated the visit)
- The Pacific Islands Telecommunications Assn (PITA) conference held on Rarotonga in April 2017. It was hosted by Blue Sky and was well attended by overseas participants. Pua was also able to attend a meeting with organisers of the Pacific IGF which was held in June in Vanuatu, although neither Pua nor Maureen were able to attend because their passports were being held by the South African Embassy in Wellington at the time, preparing their visas for the ICANN Johannesburg meeting.
- Maureen is a member of the Multistakeholder Steering Group of the Asia Pacific Regional IGF. During 2016 she also chaired the Election and Fellowship committees in preparation for the APrIGF in Taipei, Taiwan (September 2016). She also chaired the Synthesis Document Town Hall sessions during the conference.
- In preparation for the APrIGF in Bangkok in July, Maureen was on the Fellowship and Programme committees and is chairing the Synthesis Document committee this year which is preparing this document of Asia Pacific IG issues from the participants of the APrIGF to take to the Global IGF which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in December.
- Maureen joined the APRALO team workshop on International Domain Names at the the Global IGF in Guadalajara, Mexico, in November 2016 and also participated in an IGF session on disaster management and the internet for small islands developing states. This session was also attended by participants from Tonga, Fiji and Kiribati (as well as participants from Caribbean and African SIDS). A report on the IGF is available on the CIIAG website
At the IGF, Maureen met with Diplo Foundation leader, Tereza Horejsova, who offered an opportunity for Pacific Diplomacy Capacity Building participants to apply for any UN meeting to be held in Geneva during 2017. This is part of Diplo’s ongoing support for the Pacific capacity building in the area of diplomatic development.
Maureen applied to attend 2017 World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) which was held in June 2017. Prior to the commencement of the WSIS, an invitation was extended to participate in the diplomacy capacity building programme for young African and Caribbean diplomats which was modelled on the 2014 Pacific programme in which Maureen, Eirangi Marsters and Sandra Tisam from the Cook Islands participated.
The WSIS itself began as a series of UN meetings in Tunis and Geneva which resulted in a set of Internet Governance Principles and established the first 10 years of Internet Governance Forums, starting in Athens in 2006. The WSIS is coordinated by the International Telecommunications Union and is a high level discussion by government leaders and heads of international organisations that use the internet to communicate and coordinate their activities to discuss policy issues.
As a DIPLO alumna attending the WSIS for the first time, Maureen also became involved as a curator for the Geneva Internet Platform Digital Watch Observatory on which real time reports are provided on each of the sessions within an hour or two of the session being held. There was a team of Diplo alumni who ensured that every session at the WSIS was covered. Curators really got to experience the pressure involved in getting an article completed within a specific timeframe so that the editing team could get it online within the maximum 2 hour deadline. Maureen reported on sessions involving eAgriculture, multilingualism, waste management, Disaster preparedness for people with disabilities, National and Regional IGF initiatives, Enhancing the Internet Economy of SIDS and 3 hours of the opening ceremony.
On a local level, it is good to see that the Manatua Submarine Cable is firmly entrenched into the Cook Islands Government’s plans (CIG Budget Estimates, Book 1, page 180).
Manatua Submarine Cable Project
Improved Connectivity is a priority for Government, as it is a significant enabler for economic growth, social development and simply keeping our people in touch with their families and the world abroad. Budget 2017/18 will demonstrate the Government’s commitment to making this a reality. The Government will be working on developing a telecommunications submarine cable to connect Rarotonga and Aitutaki to the rest of the world. This will ensure faster, more reliable and affordable broadband connections. We are appreciative of the financial support that will be provided by the New Zealand Government, to the tune of $15 million. The balance of the cost will be met by the Government through borrowing and any further investment. Government is confident that this particular commitment of capital will be self-sustaining and will have positive outcomes for many years to come. (p180)
In April 2017 during the Pacific Telecommunications Association annual general meeting, hosted in Rarotonga. The Cook Islands Government and leaders from Niue, French Polynesia and Samoa entered into an agreement for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Manatua Submarine cable project. Such a regional approach provides a cost effective solution for the Cook Islands and Niue (connecting with spurs and branching units), and redundancy capacity for both Samoa and French Polynesian (already connected via separate trans-pacific cables).
The Government of the Cook Islands has requested the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to support the project. An OCR Loan allocation of USD$15 million* is set aside to support this important project. It is anticipated this project will improve internet connectivity in the Cook Islands by providing higher capacity and better quality broadband, increasing accessibility and improving affordability for Cook Islanders. (p184)
The ADB is providing technical and legal support to the Cook Islands (2016/17 $478,585 and 2017/18 $72,464) in its preparation for the Manatua Submarine Cable. The ADB is currently in the process of appointing a focal point. Social and environmental impact assessments have been completed and the submarine cable is expected to be operational towards the end of 2018/19.
*The Budget document cites the loan as 2017/18 $10,869,565 and for 2018/19 $11, 319, 412.