Connecting Papua New Guinea

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Connecting Papua New Guinea

The dawn of the digital era

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has relied on a single 21 gigabit per second (gbps) cable to service a country of eight million people. The central areas of the country are extremely mountainous and only roughly 70% of the population have access to a mobile network. The resulting internet service is slow and unreliable, only available to a small portion of the population, while the price of data is among the highest in the world.

The Australian Government commissioned a 20 terabit per second (tbps) undersea cable—known as the Coral Sea Cable—from Sydney to Port Moresby, launching in early 2020. This is a thousand-fold increase on the 21 gigabit per second cable. At the same time, the Papua New Guinea government commissioned the Kumul Submarine Cable to connect the interior of PNG to the coastal areas via a high-speed network. With the Coral Sea Cable and Kumul Submarine Cable, the people of PNG will finally have reliable high-speed internet.

While this seems like a major step forward, it needs to be considered in the context of a country where only 13% of the population have access to electricity, 50% of children do not continue their education beyond primary school, and diseases such as tuberculosis and (more recently) polio are major health issues.

Connecting Papua New Guinea: The Dawn of the Digital Era explores the potential impacts of this new infrastructure and the opportunities it creates, with a focus on education and financial inclusion. Centre for the Edge is already working with the Papua New Guinea Department of Education, as part of Deloitte WorldClass, to explore how the new digital infrastructure can have a positive impact on the nation’s two million school children. As mobile phones become more prevalent we are also advocating the use of mobile money solutions that have had massive benefits other countries, such as Kenya with M-Pesa. Finally, with around 90% of the population undocumented, we have been talking about ways to facilitate financial inclusion without identity rather than follow the Western Know Your Customer (KYC) models that will not work in Papua New Guinea.

The opportunity for Papua New Guinea is almost like starting again with the internet, however this time armed with a more knowledge and experience. The key is not to simply lift and shift Western solution, it is about coming up with PNG solutions to PNG problems and empowering the people to make good choices.

Published: November 2019

Connecting Papua New Guinea
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