Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


By La Poasa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, Sept. 12) - InfoTech American Samoa, the company that has been working for the past three years to develop call centers here, says it is very pleased with the arrangements Governor Togiola has made for the new undersea fiber optic cable.

"We are now moving full speed ahead with planning and implementation," says John Newton, the local partner in InfoTech. "You will be seeing a great deal of activity here as we move forward with the development of facilities and begin interviewing, hiring and training call center personnel".

[PIR editorís note: A call center is a central office used for receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. Increasingly, large companies are turning to such call centers to handle queries from customers, or to send out "telemarketing" calls.]

Togiola announced from Honolulu last week that he signed a letter of intent with three other parties to re-deploy the Pacific Rim East cable from American Samoa to Hawaii.

While the governor did not identify who the three parties are, Samoa News has learned that they are Telecom New Zealand, Merchant Capital, an investment and merchant banking company whose focus is on public and project finance, and Elandia Incorporated, parent company of Blue Sky Communications and Fiji-based Datec, which merged with Blue Sky a few years back.

The call center project is a massive undertaking that promises to provide thousands of quality jobs for the community.

Newton said InfoTech is working with top professionals in their client and partner base.

"These people view American Samoa as a quality call center venue, not just a cheap labor location," explained Newton. "Although the cost of labor will be a major consideration, it is not the only criteria prospective clients are looking at. Being on U.S. soil is an absolute requirement for several of InfoTech's clients. We are working with large companies that place a great deal of value on their presence."

He said "very generally speaking", there are two classes of call centers: "inbound" and "outbound". InfoTech's call center activities will be almost entirely incoming calls from customers of large companies. This is known as an "inbound call center".

The second class of call center is the "outbound call center" otherwise known as telemarketing.

Newton said that once it becomes known that American Samoa can offer the telecommunication services to support call centers, the telemarketers would come here to conduct all sorts of unsavory business.

There are no local laws controlling telemarketing. InfoTech hopes that telemarketers will be kept out of the community but that won't be possible without specific laws.

"Our initial due diligence indicates that there are a large number of American Samoans with the skills we are looking for," said Newton. "Many people here have better English language skills than can be found in most parts of world. We are also looking at inviting American Samoans to return from the States to work at the call center. A comprehensive study is now being conducted by the University of Hawaii to more accurately quantify the availability of qualified personnel for call centers and other "intellectual services" that might become feasible as telecommunications services to our island improve."

According to the InfoTech official, the community will see great benefits as the call center industry grows and prospers here. He said there would be hundreds of new jobs immediately and potentially thousands of new jobs in the near future.

"American Samoans will be returning from the States to work in the call centers," he added. "Average pay scales will be much higher than other industries offer. It is easy to see that call centers have the potential to improve our standard of living. This will mean new housing requirements and a need for upscale merchandising in many areas."

Newton said InfoTech is currently looking at several possible sites, including existing buildings.

"The space requirements are much larger than most people realize. In addition to the work stations, there will be management offices, training rooms, reception areas and even a full food service facility," he explained. "We intend to provide our employees with larger than normal work areas and all the facilities that will make their workplace their favorite place to be."

He said the call center offers substantial diversification of our economic development.

"Working in a call center is something people can be proud of. Working conditions will be, clean, comfortable and generally enjoyable," he said. "In addition to the people actually answering calls, there will be a large number of supervisors, team managers, trainers and technicians. This structure provides for excellent upward mobility for employees."

Newton reiterated that the call center industry is true economic development. He said it is an export business because call centers will be providing services that will be paid for from outside American Samoa.

"InfoTech is an American Samoa based company that will pay taxes in American Samoa. The only natural resource used will be human resources," he said. "There will be absolutely no polluting of the environment or severe pressures on the infrastructure. This is a clean, wholesome activity that will be the wave of the future for American Samoa. We hope the entire community will step forward in support of our efforts."

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