PacINET Rarotonga was held in the Cook Islands on 22-26 September and was opened by the Minister of Telecommunications. It focused on raising understanding within the local community about ISOC, ICANN and innovative development related to internet users in the Pacific. The conference was organised by the local Cook Islands Internet Action Group under the guidance of their president and PICISOC Board Chair Maureen Hilyard. The event was supported by ISOC event funding, ICANN stakeholder engagement and outreach programme funds, and a very generous donation (and videoed endorsement) from Vint Cerf, a strong advocate of internet development in the Pacific. Local government ministries and staff as well as community participants took advantage of the 4-day workshop and conference programme.

Popular workshops were “ICT for people with disabilities” and “eGovernment”. Sessions on the work of the Internet Society and ICANN within the Pacific helped to raise awareness about these organisations. Key spokesman for ISOC, Rajnesh Singh, was hospitalised on arrival on Rarotonga and was therefore unable to take part, but the Internet Society was ably represented by Holly Raiche of ISOC Australia , Ali AlMeshal of ISOC Bahrain and the Pacific Islands Chapter (PICISOC).  Holly and Ali were funded by the ICANN regional outreach programme but their joint ISOC and regional ICANN leadership roles enhanced discussions that focussed on the objectives of both organisations.  Holly’s presentation on telecommunication legislation added further emphasis on this important component of internet development in the Pacific.

Other overseas conference speakers included Peter Dengate-Thrush, former Board Chair of ICANN and Save Vocea, ICANN’s Vice President of Stakeholder Engagement in the Pacific who added support for the important collaboration between ISOC and ICANN for internet development within the Pacific.  Rowena Cullen and Graham Hassall of NZ’s Victoria University promoted the benefits of eGovernment, while Ellen Strickland of InternetNZ  (and PICISOC Board Vice Chair) explained the findings of  her PhD thesis on IT policy development in the Pacific. John Turnbull of O3B and Michael Alex of Kacific also provided satellite technology updates.

Local presentations included an application to encourage the revival of the Cook Islands Maori Language; a local database development;  innovative use of technology in climate change and also emergency management activities within the Cook Islands; the development of a community based telecentre and the internet needs of elderly and disabled internet users on outer islands in the Cook Islands where the internet is acknowledged as an important tool to maintain the connection between isolated island communities and the diaspora. This connection through social media also maintains strong and important societal links for overseas families with their traditional culture and language.