Can remote Papua New Guinea become a high-tech hub?

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Port MoresbyWhen a mental image of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is conjured up, one of semi-nude land-before-time tribes seems more likely to appear than that of a high-tech cityscape.

But this anthropological ideal bred of part-time Discovery Channel students hardly reflects the real-time reality of Port Moresby, a capital of over 400,000.

In recent years, PNG has witnessed an economic boom, led by the exportation of natural resources and raw materials, namely liquefied natural gas, which was first extracted off the coast in earnest only a few years ago. Today it is estimated that PNG holds some 25 trillion cubic feet in natural gas reserves.

With the exchange of lucrative commodities, new technologies have followed.

Over 36 per cent of PNG’s 7 million population own a mobile phone, with the telecommunications market expected to expand.

Telecommunications provider Telekomunikasi Indonesia, on the tail of energy company Pertamina, is now looking to bridge the two countries by building a fiber-optic network in Indonesia’s West Papua that will cost some $70.7 million.

This represents a first step into the high-tech fray. But the mobile-market wave that has so rapidly enveloped African nations at comparable economic stages of development will need to be extrapolated here if PNG is to diversify itself away from dependence on exporting.

Addressing the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce on June 25, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao stressed that PNG “must embrace innovation and new technologies such as mobile telecommunications that will open up new business opportunities and can help deliver health, education and other social services more effectively,” a statement to the media said.

During a two-day trip to PNG, including a meeting with the country’s leader, Prime Minister Peter O’Neil, ADB President Nakao underscored that if the country’s boom is to be sustainable, PNG must move away from an export-led economy by utilizing such new technologies.

“To achieve sustainable growth, PNG must become more inclusive, more integrated and more innovative,” Nakao said.

“The government must use revenues effectively to restore and upgrade the national infrastructure network. It must ensure that different parts of the PNG economy are well connected and that the benefits of economic growth are shared equitably,” he added.

In PNG, where per capita GDP hovers around $2,500, the average person has considerably less spending might than neighbouring Indonesia, where GDP per capita stands around $4,600.

But opportunities in technologies, such as telecommunications, could be a force that sweeps the nation onto its feet, redefining the image we harbour of this far-flung land.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

When a mental image of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is conjured up, one of semi-nude land-before-time tribes seems more likely to appear than that of a high-tech cityscape.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Port MoresbyWhen a mental image of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is conjured up, one of semi-nude land-before-time tribes seems more likely to appear than that of a high-tech cityscape.

But this anthropological ideal bred of part-time Discovery Channel students hardly reflects the real-time reality of Port Moresby, a capital of over 400,000.

In recent years, PNG has witnessed an economic boom, led by the exportation of natural resources and raw materials, namely liquefied natural gas, which was first extracted off the coast in earnest only a few years ago. Today it is estimated that PNG holds some 25 trillion cubic feet in natural gas reserves.

With the exchange of lucrative commodities, new technologies have followed.

Over 36 per cent of PNG’s 7 million population own a mobile phone, with the telecommunications market expected to expand.

Telecommunications provider Telekomunikasi Indonesia, on the tail of energy company Pertamina, is now looking to bridge the two countries by building a fiber-optic network in Indonesia’s West Papua that will cost some $70.7 million.

This represents a first step into the high-tech fray. But the mobile-market wave that has so rapidly enveloped African nations at comparable economic stages of development will need to be extrapolated here if PNG is to diversify itself away from dependence on exporting.

Addressing the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce on June 25, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Takehiko Nakao stressed that PNG “must embrace innovation and new technologies such as mobile telecommunications that will open up new business opportunities and can help deliver health, education and other social services more effectively,” a statement to the media said.

During a two-day trip to PNG, including a meeting with the country’s leader, Prime Minister Peter O’Neil, ADB President Nakao underscored that if the country’s boom is to be sustainable, PNG must move away from an export-led economy by utilizing such new technologies.

“To achieve sustainable growth, PNG must become more inclusive, more integrated and more innovative,” Nakao said.

“The government must use revenues effectively to restore and upgrade the national infrastructure network. It must ensure that different parts of the PNG economy are well connected and that the benefits of economic growth are shared equitably,” he added.

In PNG, where per capita GDP hovers around $2,500, the average person has considerably less spending might than neighbouring Indonesia, where GDP per capita stands around $4,600.

But opportunities in technologies, such as telecommunications, could be a force that sweeps the nation onto its feet, redefining the image we harbour of this far-flung land.

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