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Honourable Ministers
Permanent Secretaries
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

In June of last year, we unveiled an historic and wide-reaching partnership with the Singaporean Government, digitalFIJI, to revolutionise the services my Government offers the Fijian people. Later that same month, we announced an historic national budget that rolled out an unprecedented slate of new policies designed – in every way – to support the well-being and success of Fijian families.

Ladies and gentlemen, today the family-focussed vision of our last national budget meets the technological potential of the digitalFIJI programme. Today, we’re rolling out a new mobile application designed to make life easier and more convenient for countless Fijian families. This new Birth Registration mobile “app” will allow for the electronic registration of the birth of a child; making a once tedious process easier for new parents who, frankly, already have enough to worry about when welcoming a new member to their families.

I know a thing or two about the stresses that come with a new child. My wife, Mary, knows a great deal more than I do. But I remember the births of each of my six children, and I now have another 19 grandchildren on top of that. Those first moments when you welcome a new child to the world are an emotional rollercoaster. I’m still not sure how it’s possible, but those moments are both the happiest and most stressful moments of our lives. You feel blessed, you feel excited, but you also feel nervous and anxious, and you know immediately that you have your work cut out for you.

As of today, we’re doing away with some of the stress faced by new families, making the days and weeks following the birth of a child less of a hassle by bringing the birth registration process online for the very first time. We’re saving new families valuable time –– time that can be spent doing just about everything else required to care for and nurture a new baby.

Up until this new launch, parents had to show up, in-person, at a BDM Office in order to initiate the birth registration process. They had to queue up, and spend their morning or afternoon waiting and filling out paperwork. Now, those days are over. That process, through this new app, can now begin as soon as they decide on the newborn child’s name, be it from the hospital bed or the comfort of their own home.

They simply need to download the Birth Registration App, follow the simple instructions on screen, and submit their registration electronically. Once the online registration is completed, new parents can schedule a set time to arrive at the BDM Office, where they can then collect the birth certificate of their newborn child. Of course, knowing when you’re meant to arrive is much better than just showing up and hoping for the best, and that will make the entire BDM office run a whole lot more efficiently.

And I’m excited to say that, for the next two years, the app will not only save you time, but it will save you money, too. For any birth that is registered electronically through this app, the normal fee for a copy of the first birth certificate will be waived.

For the time being, this new app will only be available to register births at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. During the pilot phase of the rollout we want to hear from all the new parents who use this application about how they’re finding the functionality and usability so we can make improvements necessary before the nationwide rollout.

This new application being rolled out today follows the successful introduction of the Directory-at-Gov and the MyFeedback apps, which we launched last year. Since that time, we’ve had 13,000 users access Directory-at-Gov and 300 feedbacks sent in over MyFeedback; 80 per cent of which have been successfully addressed.

Looking ahead, the new frontier of digitalFIJI is bringing a wealth of new innovations and advancements, including an e-payment component of the digitalFIJI app where Fijians will be able to pay for government services online, instead of queuing up at the cashier. Another milestone that has been made possible by our longstanding commitment to modernise the Fijian economy and leverage new technology for the benefit of our people.

We’re also in the process of creating e-profiles, which will grant users a single gateway to all of our present and future e-services, including information relating to the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service and the Fiji National Provident Fund, as well as companies and titles searches. And from today, if the user simply needs to get his or her birth certificate re-printed, for whatever reason, they can do that electronically through the Birth Registration app as well, and set up a time to come and pick up their birth certificate reprint at this BDM office.

There is great work being done through this partnership, and I want to acknowledge my Honourable Attorney-General for spearheading this effort. The AG and I have shared a vision for a modern and dynamic Fijian economy since the very start of our time in Government – a Fiji that leads in adopting new technology and making digital services available to all of our people. And it’s a thrill to see that vision steadily become a reality.

Now, I understand we have some new mothers in the room today who were among the first to register the births of their children online. First of all – let me say, congratulations on welcoming some of our newest Fijians into the world. I’m incredibly proud of the country they are born into, and I know they have bright futures ahead of them.

One of the landmark policies of the national budget, which I mentioned earlier, was the introduction of Parenthood Assistance Payments, which award 1,000 dollars to every eligible new mother – those who come from households who earn less than $30,000 – on the birth of a child to help cover the many expenses that come with having a new baby in the house. Some of the mothers here today will also be receiving a letter for those assistance payments –– setting them up for their first 500-dollar payment to help with newborn expenses, and setting up their bank account for the second 500-dollar deposit. These funds will mature as the child grows, that can be claimed later as the child enters Year 1. This should be used as a starting point for future deposits and building a lifetime foundation of financial responsibility, starting from as soon as their baby is born.

Friends, Fiji has been on the rise for quite some time. Our economy is in a record streak of growth, unemployment is low and investment is high. Our nation is undergoing new development at an historic pace, and the services that Fijians rely on are rapidly becoming better and easier to access. It’s a wonderful time not only to be a Fijian, but as this rollout shows, it’s also a wonderful time to start a family in Fiji.

It’s a wonderful time to raise children –– children who will go on to realise opportunities that we can’t even begin to imagine today. Through our continued visionary leadership, we will not only grow our economy, but adapt it with new technologies and innovations to keep our development ahead of the curve –– making Fiji’s future one of unimaginable potential.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications