Samoa internet speeds open local job prospects

Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupai. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

APIA, 17 OCTOBER 2018 (SAMOA OBSERVER) – There is potential for Samoans to “work remotely” in the country for overseas technology firms, due to the upgrading of Samoa’s submarine cable system which will provide affordable high-speed internet.

Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupai, said as many as five technology companies from New Zealand and Australia are in discussions with his Ministry on hiring locals to do remote work for them.

He said the hiring of locals to work in Samoa is the basis of the contract discussions, as he does not want to see overseas companies recruit Samoans and take them abroad.

“Our preference as a country is to keep our people here to drive our economy forward.”

“We can’t be benefiting if we send our people off overseas, they need to be based here, hence the discussion with those overseas companies,” he said.

The five companies, which Afamasaga would not name until the contracts are confirmed, are being offered an office space adjacent to the cable landing, where they would face minimal risk to their internet connection as possible.

Increasing Samoa’s internet capacity and connectivity has been a priority for Afamasaga, and it is how Samoa can do more business with companies around the world.

“What are the needs out there that we can service from here.”

“Our current biggest asset we have is our connectivity within our submarine cable pipes, we have very fast internet right now and this is how we are marketing ourselves to the world,” he said.

That high speed internet and communication technology is how Afamasaga hopes to improve employment and quality of life in Samoa.

“We want to not only attract companies to come in and create employment, create our digital economy and help drive us forward but also to help train the capacity of our locals so that we can be employed from here using our connectivity which is well in place at the moment.”

Afamasaga said the idea is to utilise Samoa’s growing connectivity and internet capacity, thanks to the submarine cables, to attract overseas companies to set up shop on shore.

“If it all comes through, the initial employment will number 60 and then in the next two years could go up to 200,” he said.

The Ministry is currently approaching overseas businesses on a promise. Currently there is no office space, or tech savvy locals ready and waiting to sign contracts with these companies, and the Minister said this is a calculated risk.

“It’s more like a presale kind of concept,” he said.

“We are saying to these companies, we are going to have this space if you are interested and as soon as you say okay, we are going to build it.”

Afamasaga said the project should take six months to complete. There is no building company lined to build the space, but the task will be up for tender in due course, he added.

As to who will staff these tech companies, Afamasaga said it will be up to the companies to train their own employees, not the Government.

But the Government is investing in increasing the amount of technology for abled people in Samoa, such as the convening of a call-centre training workshop held at the National University of Samoa recently.

According to Afamasaga, the need for IT skills in Samoa is so great he does not believe there are any such qualified people unemployed, but if there are, they should go and see the Ministry.

“I encourage anybody reading this article, sitting there unemployed to come in and show yourself, and put your name down.”

As part of its long-term plan, the Government hopes to introduce more computer skills training into the primary and secondary school syllabuses.