Internet Startup company considering relocating to the Cook Islands


WHUPI (NZ) LTD is the parent company behind GOVCRATE LTD, a turnkey e-government platform that enables governments to transact with citizens and businesses digitally. The platform was created by Cook Islander Ano Tisam, who has a Master of Information Systems from the University of the South Pacific, Sam Taufao who has a Post Graduate Diploma in Innovation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jonah Tisam who holds a PHD in Public Policy and Governance from the Auckland University of Technology.

“We’ve been working on the platform for the last 10 years. We were about to relocate the company to Singapore this year before COVID-19 hit. Singapore has a more favorable investment environment for tech startups and the support provided by the Singapore government to new tech startups is one of the best in the world”,  says CEO Jonah Tisam. However, with the recent announcement from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Hon. Mark Brown on the Smart Economy initiative has us rethinking our options” says Tisam. In a bid to diversify the Cook Islands economy away from Tourism the government made an announcement to do so via an initiative called the Smart Economy.

Through this initiative there may be an opportunity for us to move the company to the Cook Islands. At this moment we are seriously reconsidering options around whether to move the company’s operations from New Zealand to Singapore or whether to move it to the Cook Islands and we will be having a board meeting this next week to look at options” says Tisam.

However Singapore still has a more favourable jurisdiction and investment environment. For the Cook Islands to compete with Singapore would require several changes to the current policy settings.

“To create an environment that is attractive to a technology company like ours to consider moving its operations to the Cook Islands, certain regulatory and policy changes would have to be made in the Cook Islands” says Tisam. According to Tisam, examples of changes that would create an attractive investment environment for technology startups would be:

  • Tax incentives and / or lower corporate tax rates for technology companies
  • Government funding and commitment to digital infrastructure projects
  • Grant funding for technology startups
  • Developing a highly skilled and digitally literate workforce
  • Reduction in broadband costs

As it stands the Cook Islands has the potential to leapfrog other countries into the digital age due to its smaller size, COVID-19 free status and the ability to shift quickly. “The challenge for the government is whether they can make the right changes to their policy and regulatory frameworks to attract companies like ours to the Cook Islands to help stimulate and diversify the economy post Covid-19”, says Tisam.

Tisam says the company has the technological capability and the expertise to assist the government in three key areas. These are:

  • To help diversify the economy into the tech sector through technical assistance
  • To stimulate the economy through digital infrastructure projects in partnership with government
  • and to improve existing government systems and operations through capacity building and the application of our digital platform to government operations.

“With the Cook Islands facing tough economic conditions we realize government has a huge part to play in ensuring the Cook Islands economy is more resilient. We’re willing to help in anyway we can and if the opportunity were to arise we’d be more than happy to have discussions with policy makers about how we could assist in driving the government’s Smart Economy initiative.” says Tisam.

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