LET'S PUT PAPUA NEW GUINEA ON THE NET, SAYS WAIENG

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By Betsy Inuwai

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 12, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---Information and Communications Minister Peter Waieng has foreshadowed amendments to current laws to remove the monopoly currently enjoyed by the State-run Pacific Mobile Communications, which provides the "gateway" to Internet access.

Mr. Waieng, who returned last Friday from a regional communications conference in Mexico, also announced at the weekend that he would make a submission to Cabinet for:

He also announced that while at the Mexico meeting he secured an agreement in principle with the Chinese for the construction of a K 110 million (US$ 44,671,000) radio/television complex at the National Broadcasting Corporation headquarters at Five-Mile.

Mr. Waieng, unimpressed with the high costs and gateway services provided by Pacific Mobile Communications (PMC), a subsidiary of Telikom, and the four service providers, said he would move to amend relevant laws soon in Parliament.

He said he wanted at least two companies to compete directly with PMC in order to improve services, reduce costs and hopefully introduce more Papua New Guineans and PNG companies to e-mail and World Wide Web access and mobile telephones.

Mr. Waieng said he did not have companies in mind but he said there has been lobbying in the IT industry for a liberalization of the sector while there has been equal opposition against more than one gateway.

Currently service providers like Daltron and Datec use the PMC gateway at Unitech, Lae, to access their individual clients, either abroad or in PNG, via Australia, the United States and satellite.

Mr. Waieng said he was confident that Cabinet and Parliament would agree with him for the need for PNG to keep pace with the rapid changes in the telecommunications, media and information technology sectors.

"While certain parts of the region and the world are experiencing a boom in mobile communications, take up of this technology in PNG is slow," he said.

Analogue technology is still being used although commitments have been made to introduce second generation (digital GSM system) this year.

"Internet was only introduced less than three years ago, take up is very slow. Internet has found its way into private and multinational corporations only," he said.

"The public sector is not a major user. Internet and computers are hardly found in homes. Further, in educational institutions apart from a handful of tertiary institutions, computers and Internet services are virtually non-existent in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions," Mr. Waieng said.

The Mexico meeting brought together APEC telecommunications ministers to talk about convergence of telecommunications, media and computer technologies in member countries.

Mr. Waieng said advances in technology were making it possible for these services to be distributed over the same platform and networks and PNG has to take the challenges seriously and that means resurrecting the Department of Information and Communications.

Currently, Information and Communications is a branch within the Prime Minister's Department.

"I am probably the only minister at APEC without a department. In every country of the world the department is given number one priority and funding," Mr. Waieng said.

He said it was his belief that all boards of Post PNG, Telikom, Pangtel and NBC should be abolished and replaced with the national communications authority. Further input would be needed before a submission is made to Cabinet, he added.

On the NBC development, Mr. Waieng said that a Chinese technical team had completed a study of the four-story radio/television studio complex and the funding would be subject to further talks on a government-to-government level.

The project includes the revamping of all NBC's 19 provincial radio stations, he added.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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