30 November 2023 | The University of South Pacific (USP), a public research university with locations throughout a dozen countries in the Pacific Islands, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cisco and Telecom Fiji to help bridge the digital divide and grow the South Pacific digital economy through the establishment of a Digital Skills Hub on its main Laucala campus in Suva, Fiji.

The new Hub is set to open in the first half of 2024 and will feature Cisco technology, including a cybersecurity lab, design-thinking workshop, collaboration workspaces, and other digitally enabled platforms to provide the students of USP and the wider Pacific Islands community with increased access to digital skills training.

Cisco will also provide technology to help USP bridge the digital divide in remote and underserved communities that lack connectivity and digital resources. USP will use Cisco’s Meraki, Webex, and cybersecurity technology to extend higher learning opportunities to satellite campuses with a shortage of onsite educators, benefiting USP’s 30,000 students in the first year of operation. The Hub is funded by Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Programme, a strategic partnership with governments, industry, and academia to connect the unconnected, grow GDP, modernise digital infrastructure, and build a digitally empowered workforce.

USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia said, “Our collaboration with Cisco will enhance USP’s capacity to address societal challenges across the Pacific region. By investing in digital skills training, innovation, and digitisation, we can assist government leaders in solving real-world problems. USP has been at the forefront of building cutting edge connectivity infrastructure that has resulted in digital transformation for our member countries and beyond. This new facility will not only benefit our staff and students but will boost the wider region and reinforce USP’s role as the Chair of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) ICT Working Group.”

The Hub will also provide digital skills training through the Cisco Networking Academy, one of the world’s largest and longest-running skills-to-jobs programmes offering industry-recognized training and credentials and inclusive workforce development. As an authorized Cisco Networking Academy training centre, USP has also helped other educational institutions in the region to grow their digital skills since 2003.

Guy Diedrich, Senior Vice President and Global Innovation Officer, Cisco, said, “In an increasingly digital world, it is vital for our communities to be connected to both the network and the skills required for the jobs of the future. Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration and Networking Academy programmes work in tandem to empower communities through technology and equalise opportunities through education. We are proud to work with the University of South Pacific and Telecom Fiji to build a more secure, more inclusive future for their students and for the entire South Pacific region.”

Training certifications from Cisco Networking Academy will help unlock new job opportunities for students, and Telecom Fiji will provide students with career pathways via apprenticeship offerings, ensuring sustainable growth, and development for the youth in the region.

Charles Goundar, Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Fiji, said, “Telecom Fiji is immensely proud to contribute to this transformative initiative that is set to shape the digital landscape of the Pacific Islands. By providing students with comprehensive apprenticeship offerings, we aim not only to bridge the digital divide but to also create sustainable career pathways for youth in the region. Our commitment to fostering digital skills aligns seamlessly with our ongoing efforts to be at the forefront of technological advancements in the telecommunications industry.”

“We are pleased to welcome Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Programme to Fiji, where it will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of education and innovation in our Region. This Programme also aligns to the country’s objectives in developing a robust and skilled workforce. It will also play a critical role in further developing our cyber ecosystem underpinned by research and innovation to meet our socio-economic needs.”
—Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Co-operatives, SMEs and Communications Honourable Manoa Kamikamica