An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


It has been worrying reading about the issues with Telikom and its employees lately. The national Telco has recently been having industrial relations problems with its workers as they have been in and out on strike for wage increases and various other political reasons. The problem now is that some rouge elements are also sabotaging the telecommunications infrastructure.

While there is nothing new with the problems with the telecommunications in this country - it was bad enough before when the raskols would rip up the copper wire to hock off or disgruntled land owners would flog solar panels from mountain top repeater stations - but now it is just getting out of hand.

Someone earlier this week cut one of the main fibre optic backbones and brought down the mobile phone network for over a day. And on the front page of the Post-Courier today there are photos showing the wanton vandalism. The finger is being pointed at either disgruntled staff or "politically inspired criminal activity".

My concerns for the telecommunications in this country were already in gloom mode. It is part of the reason why my project here will never be entirely fruitful. I have to look at other methods to circumvent Telikom, mainly satellite technology. But now my views are positively grim, especially for the development of PNG as a whole.

Telecommunications and development are pretty closely linked. Look at any of the recent countries to make great leaps in development - Malaysia, South Korea the other new Asian tigers - and telecoms has played a big part. Unfortunately for PNG in this respect it seems things will never look entirely up.

I have been asked a few times why PNG can't have things like broadband internet and other hi-tech facilities as part of its telecommunications. The reasoning is pretty simple; you need to run fibre optic cables between the cities to act as carrier backbones for this to take effect.

Running fibre optic cables around the country is a fairly major exercise so cost will always be an issue. Then there is the terrain that the cables will need to run over. They can't even get a road through so cables will always be hard pressed. And finally there is the land ownership issue. Anywhere cables are run, they will be passing through customary land, and if the owners are not happy with their level of compensation, a spade through the cable would be an easy way to get noticed.

I will be moving on from PNG at the end of the year, but unfortunately these problems won't be for a long time.