A recent UNCDF webinar has highlighted the importance of safe and equitable digital economies in the Pacific

EU Emphasises Equitable Access and Cybersecurity in Pacific Digital Economy

Sheldon Chanel
Communications Lead, UNCDF Pacific

Equipping Pacific Islanders with the skills and knowledge to better navigate the world’s growing digital landscape will strengthen communities against cybersecurity risks, such as fraud and theft, says the Deputy Head of Mission of the European Union in the Pacific, Dr Erja Askola.

In a virtual address during a recent webinar on ‘Measuring Digital and Financial Literacy in Pacific Island Countries: The Case of Samoa,’ Dr Askola called on regional partners to unite to build a digital economy that is safe, accessible, and equitable for all.

She said that the ongoing digital transformation of the global economy was creating many new opportunities in the Pacific, including increased participation in global e-trade and digitally connected domestic markets.

“At the same time, increasing digitalisation exposes us to new risks, including fraud and theft. So cyber security is more important than ever,” Dr Askola added.

“All this is why we need to be well-equipped on digital financial literacy. The European Union is pleased to support this action in the Pacific.”

The webinar was hosted by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) last month and brought together regional experts to discuss the Digital and Financial Literacy in Samoa report, a detailed survey that aims to inform development interventions and government policies with sound data.

Promoting inclusive digital economies has long been a thematic area of development focus for UNCDF, notably in the Pacific where the organization has worked towards digital financial inclusion for the better part of the last 15 years. Digital financial solutions and financial inclusion exists as a cross-cutting area spanning the whole of UNCDF’s development focus.

The EU has supported similar surveys under UNCDF’s Pacific Digital Economy Programme (PDEP) in six other Pacific Island Countries: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Timor-Leste.

The current focus on Samoa is premised on using the findings to enhance digital competencies, particularly among women, youth, rural communities, and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Deputy Head of Mission of the European Union in the Pacific, Dr Erja Askola

“Our vision is human-centric. This means that we want to ensure that technology works for the people and digital economies are fair and inclusive so that people also in remote areas have access to digitals means and digital skills,” Dr Askola said.

She further encouraged stronger collaboration among development partners to foster inclusive digital economies in the Pacific.

According to the Samoa survey, the country has a mean score of 22.41 out of a possible 52 in the digital and financial literacy index.

This means that there is a demand for comprehensive digital and financial literacy programmes of the kind UNCDF, in partnership with the EU and the Samoan government, will now look to provide.

Ali Akram, Regional Technical Lead for PDEP, welcomed the EU’s commitment to digital transformation and literacy efforts in the region.

(UNCDF Regional Technical Leader, PDEP, Ali Akram)
UNCDF Regional Technical Leader, PDEP, Ali Akram

“Digital and financial literacy and cybersecurity awareness are closely linked,” Mr Akram said.

“Higher literacy enhances understanding and management of digital finance tools, enabling individuals to make informed decisions about digital services and be more proactive in protecting against online risks.”

He added that the support from EU, along with other PDEP donors, the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, would be vital in ensuring that everyday Pacific Islanders can safely and actively participate in the global digital economy, benefiting all segments of society.

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