The Digital Revolution – Impact on Business and the Economy”

SPEECH BY MINISTER FOR ICT, HON. TIMOTHY MASIU, MP

On the Occasion of

CPA PNG NGI BRANCH ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2021

The Digital Revolution – Impact on Business and the Economy

Thursday, 24th June 2021 – Gazelle International Hotel, Kokopo

Salutation

I want to thank the CPA PNG NGI Branch, Mr. Vatnabar, the President and your team, for organizing and inviting me to officially open theCPA PNG NGI Branch 2021 Annual Conference.

As Minister responsible for ICT, I am extremely delighted to take note of the theme for this Conference: ‘The Digital Revolution – Impact on Business and the Economy’. I consider this event important so as you can see, I brought my Chairman for NICTA, Mr Noel Mobiha, Secretary for the Department of ICT, Steven Matainaho, and his Senior Officer, Mr Glen Vitou.

As many of you are fully aware, technology is continuing to change the way we do business. The use of technology is considered strategic such that it not only improves business processes but can also give a business its competitive advantage. We have definitely come a long way in the journey of technology.

In the 1990s, we saw the early introduction of the internet where few corporate companies moved away from fax and adopted the usage of email and internet as a way to communicate and market. Leaps in computer processor technology and its hardware architecture allowed for computers to enter the corporate and consumer market for the purpose of operating accounting and word processing software and tools.

As we transited into the 2000s, we witnessed the advent of mobile phones. Personal computers became a norm in business houses while Computer/ICT retailers mushrooming around the country.

By 2010 we saw competition in the telecommunications market. Mobile phone subscribers exploded from a mere 30,000 to 2.5 million. Increased speeds of 3G and 4G coupled with reduction in retail prices saw SMEs take advantage of ICT hardware and software.

As we passed the 2020 mark, it is remarkable where technology has taken us. Cloud technology is now at the forefront of driving innovations.

There has never been a better time to talk about digital revolution and its impact on businesses and the economy.

Let me pause here and ask the question: What is the National Government doing to support the digital revolution? When I was appointed as Minister for ICT in November 2019, my first major commitment was to launch the National ICT Sector Roadmap. The National ICT Roadmap considers the rapidly evolving ICT sector and the digital transformational activities in PNG and attempts to map out areas where relevant policies and laws would be developed to put PNG on par with the emerging technologies, trends and practices globally.

Nine months after the launching of the National ICT Sector Roadmap I turned my focus to a vision for a digital government. I consequentially presented to Cabinet what I believe is the game-changing policy – the PNG Digital Transformation Policy. This endorsed policy now gives a clear direction for public sector as a whole to transform to a space where services can be delivered online in a simple, fast, and efficient manner.

I am pleased to say that, as a result, the Department of Information and Communication Technology is being restructured to be the key facilitator for digital transformation. A new Digital Government and Information Delivery Wing has been established and it is to be headed by a Deputy Secretary to be also referred to as the Chief Technology Officer to Government. Apart from policy and sector coordination, the Department is now set to administer functions relating to Cyber Safety, Cyber Security, and Cloud Services for Government.

By early this year, my Ministry completed drafting the proposed Digital Government Bill. The Bill seeks to anchor enforcement mechanisms for the Digital Transformation Policy.

The Bill proposes the establishment of standards and compliance measures for government digital services. Part of this effort includes making illegal the use of email domain names other than ‘.gov.pg’ like Gmail and Ymail for official government correspondence and ensuring that all government websites and government social media pages disseminating official government information, comply with government standards to maintain integrity of government information;

The Bill introduces an open data framework for business houses and SMEs to have better access to relevant public data deemed critical for delivery of their product and services. Through this framework, we anticipate the introduction of simple but important back-end online services like ID verification services, TIN and IPA verifications services, just to name a few.

The Bill introduces provisions to set a time frame for public bodies to transit from paper based to online based services;

As we are all aware, the use of use of digital technology comes with cybersecurity concerns. In November 2020, the National Cyber Security Centre Project currently managed within the Ministry, obtained a leaked database to which we uncovered evidence indicating that a foreign (presumed to be) analytics company was collecting data across public and private sources and profiling a projected 1,000 plus Papua New Guineans deemed to be of influential status. Since this disturbing event, along with other classified incidents, I have been pushing for PNG to build its cybersecurity capabilities. The Digital Government Bill will establish the National Cyber Security Centre as a semi-autonomous entity under the Department of ICT.

We are looking forward to introducing the Digital Government Bill on the floor of Parliament at earliest August.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Apart from recent interventions of the Digital Transformation Policy 2020 and the Digital Government Bill 2021, the Ministry still maintains it broader goals to address accessibility, affordability, and reliability.

You all are aware by now of Government’s investment in ICT critical infrastructures. Since the inception of PNG DataCo, we have seen wholesale prices drop by 90 percent. Late last year, I did instruct my Department to explore policy options to further reduce wholesale pricing. I intend to release the Draft National ICT Policy in 3rd Quarter which will look into these options

In the retail space, I am pleased to inform that the Government through NICTA has approved for a third mobile telecommunication operator to enter PNG market. Subject to meeting all compliance requirements, Digitec Communications is expected to roll out broadband services before end of this year. We project that with effective competition over one-year period, mobile subscribers could potentially jump to 4 million and retail internet plans will drop a further 80 percent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What do all these interventions by the Marape-Basil Government mean for our business, our SME and for the economy as a whole?

The Ministry takes the position that by making our government a ‘digital government’, we will also make our citizens as ‘digital citizens’. These digital citizens become your online clients. This is where the digital revolution takes place.

A digital government will instantly address ‘ease of business’ which is currently the main pain point for all SME’s. We envision that within a digital government, SME enthusiasts would be able to with grate ease apply for business name, TIN, and open a bank account all at the comfort of their home. We envision that an SME can easily market their products and services online to both domestic and international markets.

The Ministry also projects that the process of digitizing government presents in itself countless opportunities for the ICT Industry. We anticipate growth in specific spaces such as ICT Auditing, data governance, full stack development, cyber security and network infrastructure, just to name a few.

The economic benefits of the Ministry’s interventions are massive, and my Ministry is working on the modelling to quantify its direct and indirect impact.

At this time, the Ministry’s goal is simple – We strive to build a safe and secure enabling cyber environment and bring our citizens to the table to participate, it is now up to all the players across all industries to harness these opportunities.

In saying that, I wish you all a fruitful discussion and may you reach some understanding and resolution that will set a path for you towards embracing digital technologies to be on par with rest of the world.

The Government is here to work with you, and I encourage that you continue to talk to my Ministry and My Department.

God Bless.