Pacific comes first for SkyEye
(Picture caption: SkyEye Chief Executive Officer Fa'aso'otauloa Sam Saili was the keynote speaker at the Digital Moana Forum. CREDIT Samoa Observer.)
When SkyEye Chief Executive Officer Fa'aso'otauloa Sam Saili was asked to be the key note speaker at the Digital Moana Forum in Auckland, he had to make a tough head versus heart decision.
The Samoa-based company which provides user friendly Geo-Spatial Technologies solutions to Pacific countries was also invited to participate in a Commonwealth Youth Entrepreneurs conference in China at the same time as the May 22 Digital Moana Forum.
There were opportunities on offer at the conference in China, for SkyEye to connect and potentially go global with companies like Alibaba, Nike and many other multi-billion dollar organisations looking to help youth entrepreneurs and SkyEye was geared up to attend it, Sam explains.
When SkyEye received an invitation to speak at the Digital Moana Forum by co-organisers the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE), the CEO was presented with a tough choice to make.
“It was a difficult decision for us to forego the opportunity offered in China but we would not be true to our company core values of making life easier for Pacific communities and helping youths use Information Communications Technology (ICT) as a pathway to improve themselves and those around them,” Sam says.
The one-day event, supported by Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), in partnership with MBIE, Pacific Business Trust, Dev Academy, Summer of Tech, and Datacom, aimed to promote the New Zealand tech sector internationally and to grow exports from NZ tech sector firms.
It aimed to attract more Pasifika into the tech industry by showcasing Pasifika people already succeeding and navigating a variety of aspects of the tech sector, including Sam and the successful SkyEye business.
Sam spoke to the theme of the forum - Inspire, Inform and Empower, with several outcomes in mind.
“I wanted to encourage youth to use ICT as a tool to take them to the next level because it is only going to get bigger with opportunities.
“I wanted to showcase the development of a home-grown island ICT solutions company getting recognition in the region for delivering social impact.
“This is very important to highlight and a way to encourage our people to not only get into business but to have a positive social impact which helps our communities.”
Sam also wanted to share the struggles his and other Pacific-based organisations have had setting up businesses in the region, and in particular, setting up an ICT company, he says.
The forum was an opportunity for the CEO of SkyEye to gauge more understanding of youths’ views and concerns about careers in ICT.
“We addressed those concerns the best we could while also taking them into consideration with what we do,” he says.
The event was also ideal for representatives from Pacific Island businesses to network, and look at challenges they share, as well as potential opportunities in NZ and in the region.
Although many Pacific Islands have made advances in technology in recent years, Sam says there is still a gap between the region and other parts of the world.
“The biggest concern SkyEye sees is in terms of sufficient qualified ICT graduates to support the ICT industry in the Pacific Islands,” he says.
“There is already a significant digital divide starting from early child education when comparing the developed world with the Pacific Islands that do not integrate ICT into the education system until intermediate and high school level.
“This is not just a factor of getting devices and giving them to children, but it is a whole system approach where teachers and parents are involved and educated to help their children.”
Currently, the prospects for Samoa’s development of ICT infrastructure are promising with the work done by the Minister of ICT, Hon Afamasaga Rico Tupai, Sam adds.
However, getting the business environment to encourage the development of new ICT companies and the growth of existing ones is lacking when compared with government incentives available for other business sectors.
“This is a disappointment when ICT is a transformational tool that can immediately take a local company with local audience to global audience overnight.”
With ICT, people can work from anywhere, which offers unique work opportunities for the Pacific.
“There is a current and future anticipated skills shortage in the Islands for ICT skills, so Pacific people living in New Zealand, Australia and around the world could work remotely on projects in the Islands to help fill that gap,” Sam explains.
“Nothing beats boots on the ground, so the focus on building local ICT skills capacity is essential.”
In the same way Pacific people around the world can work on Pacific projects remotely, and the same also applies for ICT-skilled people based in the Islands.
They can work on global projects from the Islands with the right ICT infrastructure.
“It is a very lucrative skill for our people to learn and live in the Islands and work on global projects, which immediately gives them opportunities within the global market as well as the local market,” Sam says.
“This has significant potential for foreign revenue earning for the Islands.”
Recently, SkyEye received funding from Frontier Innovators, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s innovationXchange, and delivered by SecondMuse.
Frontier Innovators is a search for innovative businesses in Asia-Pacific that are driving economic growth in line with the region’s Sustainable Development Goals.
With this funding, SkyEye is in a position to quickly scale operations to the rest of the Pacific and potentially globally if that is of benefit for everyone, Sam says.
“We will always focus on the Pacific first, however.
“SkyEye will continue to prioritise projects that benefit the communities, for example the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project looking at effects of climate change.
“We will continue to provide cutting-edge technologies and gather the best information for the decision makers to make the best decisions to benefit our communities.”
The Digital Moana Forum was well attended by youths, ICT entrepreneurs as well as Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio (pictured with attendees below).
It was one of 400 events around the country which made up TechWeek ’18.
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