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Regional Connectivity

Australia will: support a connected and prosperous Indo-Pacific comprised of independent sovereign states enabled by secure and economically viable critical technology

Australia will do this by:

Action 27. Supporting the development and deployment of secure, transparent and economically viable telecommunications infrastructure across the Indo-Pacific, and promoting policy and regulatory environments that enable partners to capitalise on this connectivity
Action 28. Building capacity across the Indo-Pacific to identify and address risks associated with the design, development and use of telecommunications infrastructure and critical technologies

Australia benefits from an Indo-Pacific region of stable, prosperous and sovereign states that cooperate on shared interests and are resilient to coercion. The development and deployment of current and next generation telecommunications infrastructure will provide significant economic and social dividends for our region. However, they also represent growing potential sources of influence, interference and coercion.

Powerful drivers of change are converging in the Indo-Pacific. Economic growth is shifting the distribution of power across the region, and cyberspace and critical technologies are increasingly central to geostrategic competition.

Some states may consider that they have to prioritise more immediate connectivity, over longer-term considerations of how this may impact their security and sovereignty. We will share Australia's expertise to enhance understanding of the risks associated with telecommunications infrastructure, and encourage partners to consider transparent, secure and sustainable solutions.

    Pacific connectivity

    While the Indo-Pacific has some of the world's most advanced digital economies, it is also home to countries whose digital development is still in its early stages. Connectivity remains a barrier to change with only 48.4 per cent of individuals in our region using the Internet.

    We will support our neighbours through dialogue and investment in secure, safe and sustainable telecommunications infrastructure that advances their interests. We will position Australia as the partner of choice within our region on cyberspace and critical technology issues.

    We have stepped up our connectivity efforts in the Pacific through the Coral Sea Cable System (CS2) and Solomon Islands Domestic Network (SIDN). The 4,700 kilometre fibre optic submarine cable system linking Sydney to Port Moresby and Honiara, and three regional sites in the Solomon Islands, is set to deliver high speed, low-latency communications infrastructure to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

    Alongside our investment, we will deliver capacity building that supports development of the policy and regulatory frameworks necessary to ensure our regional partners can harness connectivity in a safe, secure and sustainable manner. We will assist partners to: modernise their telecommunications markets to promote availability and affordability; reform regulatory environments to address issues such as competitiveness and privacy; promote accessible e-platforms for governance and education; and, enhance our partners' cyber security capacity (see Cyber Security).

    ASEAN connectivity

    Australia supports a number of ASEAN connectivity initiatives, which are a priority for the ASEAN agenda. Australia has contributed significant funding to ASEAN connectivity including through the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 (MPAC), a ten-year strategy adopted by ASEAN Leaders in 2016. MPAC was developed for ASEAN by Australian consultants and with Australian funding.

    Australia also funded the development of ASEAN's Rolling Pipeline of Priority Infrastructure Projects, which includes green-fields ICT projects such as Thailand's 'ASEAN Digital Hub'. The hub aims to enhance bandwidth and create new cable routes throughout the region.

    Australia will assist ASEAN develop a strategic plan to respond to the increasing centrality of critical technologies driven by enhanced connectivity. Innovations including cloud computing, the Internet of Things, open data and big data analytics, have already been widely adopted by ASEAN cities. Critical technologies have the potential to generate from $220 billion to $625 billion in annual economic impact in ASEAN by 2030. Australia supports ASEAN's connectivity agenda by working within ASEAN-centred architecture, including the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), to reinforce international law and norms in cyberspace. Australia will continue work with members of the Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT) to deliver its mandate of promoting regional cooperation in radio communications, telecommunications and standards development, and reducing the digital divide within the Asia Pacific region.

    AUSTRALIAN INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING FACILITY FOR THE PACIFIC

    On 1 July 2019, the Australian Government announced the new Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP). The $2 billion AIFFP significantly boosts Australia's support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries and Timor-Leste across a range of sectors including telecommunications. Through the AIFFP, Australia will fund high quality infrastructure that is responsive to the needs of partner governments, maximises local private sector participation, uses local labour, is climate and disaster resilient, promotes gender equality and social inclusion, and includes appropriate safeguards.

    COOPERATION WITH ASEAN

    The Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN Australia Strategic Partnership 2020–2024 details our joint commitment to an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful ICT environment. Australia will continue to work closely with our ASEAN partners, including through biennial ASEAN–Australia Cyber Policy Dialogues.

    SINGAPORE STATEMENT OF THE ASIA-PACIFIC MINISTERS ON CO-CREATING A CONNECTED DIGITAL FUTURE IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC

    The June 2019 APT Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting issued the Singapore Statement of the Asia-Pacific ICT Ministers on Co-creating a Connected Digital Future in the Asia-Pacific.

    The statement covers five key focus areas which align closely with Australia's own priorities for the region:

    1. Digital transformation, to promote economic growth through greater connectivity, digitalisation, transparency, market competition and consumer protection
    2. Digital innovation and creativity, to help catalyse innovation and entrepreneurship in the development and utilisation of emerging ICTs
    3. Digital community, to promote digital access in unserved and underserved regions, people in vulnerable groups and to embrace diversity through inclusive policies and reliable digital infrastructure
    4. Digital trust, to encourage trusted and secure systems which promote the increased cybersecurity vigilance and foster a trusted and secure cyberspace
    5. Digital capacity building and partnerships.

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