Papua New Guinea to Upgrade Its Digital Infrastructure

PNG ICT upgrade

As we previously reported here, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is working on plans to improve its ICT infrastructure. Furthermore, it is working on addressing challenges on connectivity. It hopes to use its position as the chair of APEC in 2018 to foster the agenda of digital inclusion. The APEC 2018 program is working under the theme of Harnessing inclusive opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future. The program started in March this year, and it aims at improving digital inclusion and connectivity. This will help narrow the digital gap present in the APEC community and promote social and economic growth.

David Toua, Chairman of the APEC Business Advisory, talked of ways through which PNG can use its membership in APEC to improve the role of technology. According to him, PNG can benefit from the huge economies of APEC by enhancing its development through adapting their technology in PNG’s markets. He added that PNG had taken a huge forward step in communications and it is now the time for internet and the rest of technology products. The move will be of much help for the country’s accessibility, reputation. Moreover, it will give an avenue for small and medium sizes businesses.

Senior officials will hold discussions that focus on how to reach goals put in place under APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap. The roadmap was drafted back in 2017, and it has three key pillars. The pillars include accessing universal broadband, developing digital infrastructure. It also involves developing government policy framework for digital and internet economy. It is important especially to improve digital infrastructure in PNG. This will help to attain the objectives set out in the digital roadmap. The government took an important step in late 2017 by signing a deal with its fellow APEC member Australia. The deal was to oversee the construction of an underwater high-speed telecoms cable. The cable will be between Australia and Port Moresby. The 3000km cable cost is worth almost $100 million. The Australian government will fund the larger part of it.  Moreover, its construction will kick-start before the end of this year.

Immediately the construction is over the cable will improve connection speed. Furthermore, it will enhance connection capacity for PNG’s homes and businesses. A lot of the PNG’s existing international digital pillar is under-utilized or aging. There are two submarines in place by now these are PPC-1 and APNG-2. The two provide roughly 2.5Gbps of capacity to 7.6 million people. According to data from Lowy Institute an Australian think tank, the demand is expected to increase to more than 450Gbps by 2040. Despite the fact that bandwidth’s demand is on the rise, the whole internet penetration rate is still low. This is in comparison to the global average at almost 11.7% in 2016. Accessibility of mobile coverage has gone up from 3% of the population in 2006 to 80% as of 2006. But the rate of mobile penetration stood at 54.2% as of mid-2016. All this are despite the government’s reforms and the opening up of the telecommunication sector to international competition in 2007. The data are from the International Telecommunication Union of UN.  The country is still recording the highest cost of broadband and mobile internet in the region despite the increase in uptake. The cost is because of its mountainous topography and its dispersed population.

The government is looking forward to improving domestic mobile telephone infrastructure. It is also looking forward to expanding access to 4G and 3G internet to tackle the challenges. Additionally, the National Information and Communication Technology Authority are planning to support the expansion of the high-speed broadband to selected villages. Ivan Pomelu, the chairperson of senior officials meeting at APEC 2018 said that smartphones offer an opportunity for broader engagement in the market economy more so by SMEs and women. He gave this statement at an APEC summit in March 2018. The data collection, warning and monitoring natural disasters and adverse weather conditions also possess strong digital potential.

The quench of improving capabilities came into focus after the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck PNG’s Hela Province on 26th February. The earthquake interfered with communication that affected relief and rescue operations. This made the collection of information related to casualties, damage and specific needs of affected communities much difficult.

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Written by Denis Opudo

Am an engineer who's a tech blogger, hit me up on [email protected] and we base our discussion on technology in Pacific countries and the rest of the world.
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