The European Union (EU) and the Pacific Community (SPC) today launched a FJD 1.6 million project, Supporting the Pacific Close the Digital Divides in Response to COVID-19 (SPC DDR-COVID-19). This project forms part of a bigger programme, Digital Response Connecting Citizens (DIRECCT), which is funded by the EU in collaboration with the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and implemented by the French Development Agency (AFD) in coordination with the Belgian development agency (Enabel).
The COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed the world shift to digital services to remain connected and resilient during crisis. The Pacific health sector although facing constraints with its low digital connectivity, adapted and utilised digital mechanisms to respond to COVID-19 with the assistance from partners and donors.
“Digitalization is a priority of the European Union and it has demonstrated its importance to combat COVID-19. In the European Union, it has supported the health and socio-economic response to the pandemic, and has helped manage through confinements, lockdowns, curfews, closures etc. Digitalization is also a priority of the European Union strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, but this part of the world is still lagging behind. I am happy that this project supporting the Pacific close the digital divides in response to COVID-19 will allow the region to catch up and facilitate the continuity of health services through more accessible and affordable digital services,” said the EU Ambassador for the Pacific H.E. Sujiro Seam.
The SPCDDR-COVID-19 has been developed in consultation with the beneficiaries and key partners, taking into consideration existing initiatives and identified gaps, with the intention to leave no one behind.
SPC’s Deputy Director General Dr Paula Vivili said, “We will be working with 7 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) and we have identified a few ICT gaps that we will be supporting. This includes the provision of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, projector screens, internet subscriptions. This will support in country activities such as contact tracing, webinars, and surveillance monitoring.
The SPCDDR-COVID-19 is implemented by SPC through the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN) and aims to progress the digital health system transformation within the Pacific Island countries and territories for the immediate future and post-COVID-19 era.