Collaborating to support cyber skills development in the Solomon Islands

Collaborating to support cyber skills development in the Solomon Islands

AustCyber is proud to be working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Cyber Affairs Branch to help connect Australian cyber security capability to cyber capacity building initiatives in the Indo-Pacific.

The spirit of entrepreneurship has never had more chances to flourish than in this digital age we now live in. As more nations enter the digital sFpace, previous economic constraints once felt by geographic isolation are suddenly overcome. New opportunities for economic growth abound as existing markets become data-enriched and new markets emerge.

A key first step in taking advantage of these benefits is targeted investment in skills and training for the transitioning workforce.

The inaugural Technology 4 Development Challenge is the latest in a series of regional development initiatives aimed at making the most of the current opportunities in the digital economy. Funded through the Cyber Cooperation Program and aligned with Australia’s International Cyber Engagement Strategythe Tech4Dev Challenge aims to harness technology to solve complex problems in education and employment in the Solomon Islands.

At an official awards ceremony in Honiara on 29 April, Australia’s Cyber Ambassador Dr Tobias Feakin awarded prizes to four project winners chosen from over 50 applications.

Winners

The four winning projects each represent an innovative technology solution that assists in improving education, skills and workforce outcomes throughout the island nation. More information about each project and their leaders can be found on the DFAT Cyber Affairs website.

AustCyber’s Project Officer of National Workforce Development Byron Nagy was proud to help judge the winners of the competition, ensuring that projects demonstrated strong alignment with ‘secure-by-design’ principles, and consideration was given to gender and inclusivity.

In a collaborative workshop between the project winners, AustCyber facilitated a discussion on how each project could support each other, as well as collaborate with Australian companies to enhance outcomes and successes.

Solomon Islands are about to enter a monumental moment in their digital development. Currently, around 19% of the country’s roughly half a million citizens have access to the internet, with much of that access being intermittent and slow1.

The Coral Sea Cable System is set to dramatically change this statistic, bringing high-speed internet directly to Honiara and surrounding provinces, as well as to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea by the end of this year.

CORAL SEA

 

Such a sudden technological shift brings with it a raft of challenges, not least of which includes security. The difficulties facing the Solomon Islands with this new development are not unlike those felt by all nations around the globe, equally struggling with the complexities of an increasingly hyper-connected society.

The opportunity now is through learning. The lessons we have learned – and still are learning – here in Australia on skills development and workforce transition will hopefully serve as useful guidance during our continued partnership with the Solomon Islands as they take the next step towards a digitally-enabled future.

Education and employment remain a key challenge in the islands, with youth unemployment sitting at around 70%, calculated to cost the economy approximately USD$3.2 billion by 20202. ICT skills development iscrucial in seizing this opportunity to end the cycle of unemployment and lay the foundations for harnessing this potential economic boom. It’s important to recognise however, that the dream of full-employment in the model akin to other nations is unlikely in low-income nations like the Solomon Islands3. As such, the fostering of a strong entrepreneurial spirit is needed to fully engage in the global digital economy, which is estimated to represent US$5.9 trillion currently in the Asia-Pacific4.

The foundations for success are already being laid. The government’s ICT Support Unit (ICTSU) is continuing to grow, with civil grass-roots groups such as the IT Society (ITSSI) and Women in IT group (WITSI) continuing to attract and support new emerging leaders in ICT and cyber security. Coordinated education policies such as the ICT in Education Master Plan 2019-20235 recognise the need to pivot national education objectives toward a new digital horizon and implement ambitious targets for reaching those goals.

AustCyber will continue to work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to help link Australian cyber security companies, particularly those focussed on standards training and skills development, to opportunities in our regional neighbourhood.

The challenge of skills development and training is one that affects all nations, and it’s only through our continued collaboration that we will learn from each other and overcome these hurdles together.

We wish all the Tech4Dev challenge winners the best and look forward to seeing their successes and learnings over the coming twelve months.

 


  1. 2017 Telecommunications Commission Solomon Islands (TCSI) Annual Report
  2. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, 2015. The Pacific Youth Development Framework 2014-2023: A Coordinated Approach to Youth-centred Development in the Pacific.
  3. Daniel Evans, 2016. Hard Work: Youth Employment Programming in Honiara, Solomon Islands. State, Society and Governance in Melanesia. Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU.
  4. Cognizant, 2018. The Work Ahead: The Future of Business and Jobs in Asia Pacific’s Digital Economy.
  5. Solomon Islands Government. Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development, 2019. ICT in Education Master Plan 2019-2023.