Samoa’s cyber security raises questions in Parliament

APIA, SAMOA – 23 JUNE 2020: The Minister of Minister of Communication and Information Technology (ICT), Afamasaga Rico Tupai has assured Parliament that Samoa’s cyber security is intact and that a law is being designed with the assistance of the Australian government to ensure Samoa’s cyber information is safe.

The Minister was responding to questions raised by two independent MPs, Laaulialealietoa Leuatea Polataivao and Olo Fiti Vaai who doubted the security of Samoa’s information since the country’s gateway was sold nine years ago and now owned and controlled by Fiji overseas owned telecommunication companies.

Afamasaga explained that a National Cyber Security Authority is being created and chaired by the Prime Minister and that Samoa’s cyber communications are safe.

He also ruled out suggestions for Samoa to buy back its Gateway which was sold when the state owned Samoatel was sold for $11m in 2011 and recently resold for $86m. Afamasaga said Samoa currently has three gateways, two through fibre cable and one through satellite. A third submarine cable, Manatua is also coming soon.

The Prime Minister also joined the debate saying there is nothing to worry about the safety of Samoa’s information as most of the conversations are in Samoan and people asking their overseas relatives for money.

The two independent MPs also questioned any conflict of interest as the two ISPs who sell mobile and data services locally are also shareholders in the Samoa Submarine cable.

The minister said systems are in place to avoid any collusion and the Regulator also sits on the Submarine Cable Board.

A lot of space available
He explained that the Tui Cable has a lot of space available and it is up to the ISPs to buy more space and there will be more space available when the Manatua Cable arrives next month.

“The focus now is on usage and we are targeting overseas companies and now there is one company to set up a call centre to employ 300 people and an overseas Accounting firm and there are plans for E-health and the movement to establish National IDs,” explained Afamasaga.

Schoolnet and National Broadband Highway
Despite the impressive explanation of the use of the online teaching during the lockdown, MPs Olo Fiti Vaai and Tafua Kalolo raised the reality that the schools and hospitals in their villages only have equipment that do not connect and do not work.

“I’ve yet to see an online meeting of teachers using this network,” said Olo. “There is a need for capacity building of teachers to be updated on the use of the system,” said Tafua.

Olo said he had a survey of various schools in Savaii two weeks ago and many do not have Schoolnet working.

The Minister said he has taken note of the questions and will look into it as the Minister of Education should cover the questions as well.

The Minsters continue today to respond to issues raised by the Members in their general speeches on the Budget Estimates 2020/2021.

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