Minister Saeed, Secretary General Yamada, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I thank the Minister of Transport and Communications, Mr. Mohamed Saeed, and the Acting Chief Executive of the Telecommunications Authority of Maldives, Mr. Mohamed Nasih, for inviting me to inaugurate this year’s APT Policy and Regulatory Forum and the “Connect 2008” Telecom and ICT Expo.
I would like to thank the Secretary General of APT, Mr. Toshiyuki Yamada, and Mr. Mohamed Nasih, for their kind remarks.
I also thank Minister Saeed and Mr. Yamada for presenting me with the book and the commemorative plaque, respectively.
It is, indeed, a great privilege for the Maldives to have the opportunity to host this year’s APT Policy and Regulatory Forum. I understand that, as an annual event on the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity calendar, this forum continues to encourage the exchange of ideas and sharing of experiences among industry experts in the member countries, as well as formulating and reviewing regional policies among regulators.
It is my great pleasure, therefore, to declare this forum open, and wish all visiting delegates a fruitful meeting and an enjoyable stay in the Maldives.
May I congratulate you, Mr. Yamada, on assuming the post of Secretary General of the APT earlier this year. Over the past 28 years, the Maldives has benefited greatly from its membership of the APT. I am confident that your tenure of office as Secretary General will herald a new and exciting era in our relations with the APT.
Let me also congratulate the Minister of Transport and Communication, Mr. Mohamed Saeed, and his staff, and the Members of the Regulatory Board, the Acting Chief Executive and members of staff at TAM for bringing this regional forum to the Maldives, and for the efficient arrangements that they have made to host this meeting.
Today is indeed a historic day in the development of telecoms and ICT in the Maldives, as the very first national expo dedicated to this important sector –“Connect 2008” – is being inaugurated.
I am confident that “Connect 2008” will be a resounding success, and that it will become the benchmark for future editions of this expo.
The participation of leading operators and service providers, as well as equipment suppliers, system integrators and telecoms and ICT consultants adds to the importance of this expo.
TAM must be congratulated for their vision and initiative to hold a national telecom and ICT exposition. May I also compliment Business Image Group for their pivotal role in making this event a reality. BIG is a well known firm in the Maldives. They are not only ‘BIG’ in name, but they are a ‘BIG’ actor in our marketing and advertising arena.
The importance of developing telecommunications in the Maldives is underlined by the wide dispersal of the population. It is certainly the key to further progress and the achievements in this field, and is at the heart of the country’s promising social and economic growth in recent decades.
It was not very long ago that there was no telephone service in the Maldives beyond the capital, Male’, and, along with the difficulties associated with inter-atoll transport, the infancy of the telecommunications sector was the single biggest logistical hurdle in every regional development programme in the country.
A milestone achievement in our telecommunications sector was the completion, just before the start of this Millennium, of the project to provide telephone service to each and every inhabited island.
Since then, the growth of the telecommunications sector has been rapid, with its contribution to the GDP increasing to almost 10 percent.
Today, there are over 33,000 fixed telephone lines in the country, which makes the telephone penetration in the Maldives the highest in South Asia and the second highest among all LDCs.
However, the biggest revolution in our telecommunications sector has undoubtedly been the rapid rise in prominence and prevalence of mobile phones. Today, there are more mobile telephone lines in the Maldives than the country’s population, which makes mobile phone penetration in the country the highest in both South Asia and among the LDCs.
Internet arrived in the Maldives in 1996. Today, broadband Internet service through ADSL, satellite Internet and other wireless means are available in the country. Recently, the Maldives has been connected to the outside world through two submarine fibre optical cables as well.
The establishment of TAM in 2003 came with the launching of the Maldives’ Telecommunications Regulations 2003.
The biggest challenge facing the sector today is to find solutions to further bridging the gaps and disparities in service provision in Male’ on the one hand, and the rest of the country on the other. While there are numerous geographic and other problems that have to be overcome in order to achieve this objective, the need to develop infrastructure and provide additional incentives to advance services in the Atolls is quite obvious.
I, therefore, call on concerned Government authorities, service providers and industry participants to give a high priority to the improvement of services in the Atolls. The promising growth of telecoms and ICT over the years is ample proof that the steady introduction of technological advances across the length and breadth of the country is a very sound investment, as well as a social responsibility.
The provision of high speed Internet services in all parts of the country is an essential supplement to both the education and health sectors, among others. The provision of better telecommunications facilities to fishermen is also a must, and current tariffs must be brought to levels that are competitive with regional countries.
To this end, I believe the “Connect 2008” expo would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase both products and talents in the industry, and to bring buyers and sellers to the same platform.
I wish you success in your deliberations.