Samoa’s Digital Strategy takes another step closer to being realized

December 16, 2022

The digital transformation strategy workshop participants

Photo: MCIT Samoa

Samoa is well on its way to developing its National Digital Transformation Strategy, with the start today of a two-day consultation workshop. This is part of the Strengthening of Digital Transformation in the Pacific, and a reflection of the Government of Samoa’s continuous ambition to embrace the benefits offered by Information and Communication Technology to drive fundamental change through accessible, affordable and high-quality services to improve its economy and quality of life for all. 

The Digital Transformation Strategy Workshop, held at the Taumeasina Island Resort, is led by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), in partnership with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It brings together relevant participants from both the private and the public sectors, non-governmental organizations, and development agencies to share and discuss opportunities and challenges to address the means and mechanisms of achieving Samoa’s digital transformation, reflecting the need for more flexible, resilient, and connected ways of working together in applying the digital transformation process successfully.

The workshop highlights the importance of harnessing the full potential of digitalization across various sectors. MCIT leads the Government of Samoa’s digital transformation agenda, ensuring a whole of government approach through multi-stakeholder collaboration and knowledge sharing. ‘Where it will improve collaboration across various government department in the way data and information are collected and shared, and services built.’ Lefaoalii Unutoa Auelua Fonoti CEO, MCIT reminding everyone on the importance for collaboration and commitment to make this digital strategy work.

Digital divide and access to broadband remains a challenge. To fully realize the benefits of a digital economy, all Samoans must be able to connect with and trust the technology. An enabling business environment must be in place, and investment in education, skills and digital literacy is paramount.

“We need to be strategic in embracing digitalization and adopting a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach. An approach that does not stop at the national level but creates direct impact on the lives of every citizen, leaving no one behind. We are embarking on the new Pacific UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (2023-2027), which well recognizes the change that digital transformation can bring about. I am happy to see that the proposed digital transformation strategy also broadly aligns with the cooperation framework. Undertaking this massive task requires all the stakeholders to work together, and more importantly strategically align our plans to maximize the benefits and minimize our efforts”, said Dr Simona Marinescu, UN Resident Coordinator.

ITU experts highlighted that whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach is necessary to build the right ecosystem for digital transformation that the strategy seeks to achieve. Samoa’s digital transformation journey commenced with the launching of the Digital Readiness Assessment (DRA) Tool in June 2021. The DRA Tool, initiated by UNDP, was used to test the current capacity, skills and behaviors that underpin the governments’ preparedness and readiness levels to adapt to a digital culture, and evaluates whether organizations possess the potential and proficiency to adapt and manage the digital transformation process. 

From that time until now, MCIT, UNDP and ITU worked on evaluating the results of the assessment according to the five pillars of digital transformation: (1) Infrastructure, (2) Government, (3) Regulation, (4) Business, and (5) People. These pillars were then measured in terms of the five maturity levels, comprising of Basic, Opportunistic, Systematic, Differentiating, and Transformational. The strategy aims to focus on the benefits that digital transformation can bring to the people, government, economy and society. The ITU shared international trends and experiences to develop the ecosystem for digital transformation.

“The DRA helps governments develop a realistic understanding of their digital strengths and weaknesses, as understood via the Digital Transformation Framework. This assessment is both a rating and a cross-cutting hybrid, qualitative-quantitative analysis, delivering in a matter of weeks what previously took months or even years. The findings of this analysis have played a key role in supporting the national transformation strategies, policies and approaches,” said Jorn Sorensen, UNDP Resident Representative. 

The workshop focuses on areas for close collaboration in strengthening and working on developing Samoa’s Digital Transformation Roadmap in the coming years. It has also provided a platform to discuss areas Samoa will need assistance in regarding guidance and innovation.

The Government of Samoa, through MCIT, conveys sincere appreciation for the generous support offered by UNDP and ITU in facilitating Samoa’s digital transformation journey over the years in close collaboration with the Communications Sector. The findings and discussions from this workshop will help change and formulate new policies, regulations and laws that will shape Samoa’s digital future, and add to the current digital developments.