The Minister for Information and Communications Technology Honorable Timothy Masiu met with the ICT Industry for a briefing at the APEC House in Port Moresby today the 01st of February 2021.

“It is an opportune time for the Ministry on behalf of the Marape-Basil Government, the Department and NICTA not to only reaffirm the prevailing Government ICT Policies and Regulations but more importantly, to listento our industry players and stakeholders, and gain a better understanding and appreciation of their challenges and opportunities in our combine effort to deliver ICT services that are reliable, cost effective and affordable to our customers”.

He was happy and commended the Chairman of the NICTA Board, Mr Noel Mobiha and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Kila Gulo-Vui for organizing the gathering, to kick-start the ICT calendar year.

He appreciated all who made time available to attend this important ICT briefing which clearly demonstrated that they are equally as interested as the Government is, in discussing and addressing the various ICT challenges and opportunities confronting us today.

This is the first time he’s directly engaging in an official ICT briefing with the industry since his appointment as the ICT Minister in November 2019.

“I am quite interested to hear from the wider ICT Sector on how you perceive the work the Government has done thus far in this ICT Space, particularly where the work of the Department in terms of Policy and Legislation and NICTA for the regulatory component are concerned”.

Minister Masiu said, the Government cannot expect the ICT Sector to comply with our policy and legislative parameters if we ourselves are not open and transparent in how we conduct ourselves.

He explained that when in-house matters are not in order, you cannot expect the wider ICT Sector to listen to you or to work with your Government. Therefore, when he first took office in 2019, he immediately got the house in order.

He said he is quite content that within a year, he has facilitated the appointment of the Chairman and Board Members of NICTA and NBC respectively and he’s confident that now is the time to reach out to our ICT stakeholders.

Minister Masiu also stated that the Department through NEC Decision No 252/2020 and subsequent gazettal, the Department has been renamed ‘The Department of Information and Communication Technology’ with oversight on ICT matters. with Mr Steven Matainaho as the Secretary.

“The Department has also officially launched its Corporate Plan (2020-2024), which has also enabled it to undergo a comprehensive restructure and this should enable the Department to not only be more policy responsive to the sector, but also to provide broad oversight in the areas of digital government, data governance, data protection, cybersecurity, and information security”.

He said, a healthy and functioning Department is critical for clear ICT Policy and legislative development and endearment, implementation oversight and currency, which in turn will be predictable and transparent for the ICT and our various stakeholders to subscribe to.

“Since the introduction of the National ICT Policy (2008) and the consequential National ICT Act 2009 (implemented in 2010), we have seen the creation of a robust, open market environment. This was a start in the sector reforms and with invaluable experience gain. By 2021, we have two main mobile operators: Digicel PNG, a merger-in-progress entity: BeMobile/Telikom and a surge in the number of license applications. The twelve years has given us more than enough time and experience to understand ongoing issues within the current policy and legislative framework”.

He said a healthy liberalized telecommunications market is triggered by the following enablers such as Mobile Number Portability, Tower Colocation including both passive and active Infrastructure sharing, National Roaming, and Enhanced competition.

Minister Masiu said unfortunately, none of these key enablers come into practice. Thus, one of the Department’s assessment is that the current legislation framework is too protractive in nature.

“There is a growing concern by various stakeholders to reform the way in which the State delivers wholesale services. I want to inform stakeholders here today that while I will ask NICTA to review and/or reinstitute studies undertaken on Domestic Roaming, Tower Colocation and National Roaming; I have also instructed the Department to commence the formulation of the National ICT Policy (2021).”

He said the consequential National ICT Bill 2021 will, redesign and simplify execution of regulatory measures, promote spectrum flexibility, reposition wholesale delivery as a non-profit entity driven by a governance model that has direct impact on reduction in wholesale and subsequently retail price, and promote innovation and an enhanced competitive environment.

“Within this new framework, my Ministry will be looking at how best to consolidate State-owned and State-funded infrastructure as well as facilitate a fare model for sharing of these infrastructures.

“Another major intervention within the draft National ICT Policy 2021 will be a clear policy position on foreign ownership and on cross media ownership. While this new policy will impose foreign ownership requirements on all investors the market will remain open to all investors. These new requirements will be clearly stated and transparent to all, Minister explained.

“Make no mistake, this Government’s ‘Take Back’ agenda is now extended to the ICT sector.”

“The policy formulation to reflect this is well underway and we expect to hold a National ICT Summit in the coming months where we will present the draft National ICT Policy 2021 for comment,” he said.

“Within the broadcasting space, the Government is looking at promoting the growth of the domestic or local content by regulating the delivery of content. As you all are aware, foreign content is a silent killer of cultures and traditions. Hence the time has come for us to focus on developing local digital content to proudly showcase our unique cultures and traditions and our identity as Papua New Guineans.”

“We will also be establishing cross-media ownership rules, ensuring that there is no monopoly over broadcasting and that other players can enter the market if they desire. We understand that with convergence broadcasters also cross over the market and can potentially dominate the other sectors and we want to make sure that the market remains open to all on an equal basis.”

I have tasked the Department to work closely with the National Broadcasting Corporation, the Censorship office and other stakeholders including NICTA on a National Digital Content Policy that will embrace the aspirations of the people, the Government and our nation as a whole.

There is much more to cover in terms of the work that my Ministry committed itself to since I have taken office in late 2019.

Amongst other interventions we are now looking at, include the following:

  • Revisiting the Cybercrime Act, including partnering with other international organizations working in this area, such as the Council of Europe.
  • Working in emerging policy spaces in the cyber domain such as Cybersecurity, Data Protection, Communications Decency, and
  • Critical Infrastructure.

I also would like to announce that the PNG Government has recently become the first Pacific Member of the Global Forum of Cyber Expertise and we are keen to work with the newly created Pacific Hub on capacity building activities.

We all know that the ICT has evolved – and is still evolving – and ICT not only cuts across various sectors, but also is integrated into all these sectors. Convergence is everywhere and we need to promote this convergence and ensure that consumers remain protected in this new environment. Consumers and the need to ensure that they are protected in this age of convergence should remain our primary concern as well as expanding the economy

I therefore make a very passionate and strong call on NBC, NICTA, and the Department to maintain an open-door policy with our industry players and stakeholders.

Only through regular, open and transparent dialogue between the Private and Public ICT players can we endear a more robust and even playing field for all.

When we have a robust and even playing field for all, can we then expect accessible and affordable ICT goods and services to also filter down to our people. We must cover the unconnected in this country.  I thank you on behalf of NICTA on the levies you have made the Universal Access Scheme (UAS) that is helping to do connected the unconnected.

This should be our overall aspiration, apart from making a decent profit and I look forward to building a closer consultative working year with you all in our ICT industry in 2021.