PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 31) – The news that Telikom is about to embark on a PGK355 million (US$121 million) spending program is hugely welcome. It’s not just the amount that is to be spent; it is the array of projects that are listed for work. We applaud those making the decisions.

The list of improvements scheduled for the landline phone services, the mobile network, the broadband service and other technical improvements are greatly needed and overdue.

The recently revamped board of directors at Telikom must be praised for taking these steps.

For too long, development has been hindered by the relatively antique state of our telephone services. Those who wish to progress in business and life generally cannot overlook the quality and breadth of telecommunications these days. From a country that was relatively well serviced by phone services in the late 1970s, we have fallen well behind the pack internationally.

There is opinion in the business community that a couple of headline catching cases in recent times were due largely to the overly bureaucratic conditions surrounding licensing and monitoring of telecommunication developments. Let us hope that these sectors will also be clarified and upgraded in the coming months.

A part of the spending program is training of staff in customer relations. That will be a major task in a semi-government institution that has become set in its ways. Landline customers are so used to poor service that any improvement will be appreciated.

But a major driving force is the realization that Telikom’s monopoly on telecommunications could end in less than two years. In its current state, it wouldn’t sell for much on the open market. To be a worthwhile asset for the Government to sell, or to compete against open competition, Telikom needs to take giant strides in improvement.

Chairman Florian Gubon is right on target when he talks about the institution’s "unacceptable service levels and performance’’. Now that the game plan has been established and the merging of Pacific Mobile Communications with its parent company, Telikom is about to happen, grassroots customers and big business would like to see if the plan can be followed through.

Will the grand-sounding plans be made to work? Will the hired guns from KPMG be able to ensure the changes happen and that they become a core part of the new Telikom, not just a seasonal blip? If we want to be a part of a modern, developing country, it must be done with an evolving, carefully thought out telecommunications system. Staff must change their mindset, vandals must be chased off and the management and directors must show they can really make a difference.

And the politicians must keep their distance. Let the professionals do their job, we say.

November 1, 2005

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