APEC pushes digital as avenue for better services in PNG

1:21 pm on 31 October 2018

Papua New Guineans are being told they will benefit from better basic services through digital technology promoted by APEC.


APEC Haus Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Johnny Blades

PNG is to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit in two weeks.

This year it has already hosted hundreds of meetings of officials from APEC countries, a number of which have focused on digital and data advances.

The chairman of the APEC secretariat, Alan Bollard, said some of the applications being explored in PNG enable access to services for rural people.

"There are some further developments along digital lines to help e-commerce, some of it remote e-commerce, some of it remote access health and remote access education which will potentially help people in the next few years out in the provinces also."

Dr Bollard said PNG is developing the idea of a solar-powered electronic box which gives citizens a digital identity that allows them to register for health care and to get a bank account.

Meanwhile PNG's Health Minister has also been touting the expanding telecommunications sector as the key to beter health services round the country

Dr Puka Temu told local media a new "e-health system" could address ongoing issues in PNG such as shortage of health specialists at the district level.

He said it would foster better communication between rural communities and health workers and specialists

However, Dr Temu continued to deny widespread reports about chronic shortages of basic medicines and supplies in PNG's health facilities.

His office indicated it would look into a Facebook report last Thursday which exposed how shortages of antibiotics and painkillers are common across the country.

APEC Port Moresby, PNG

Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

The Minister said healthcare would benefit as the entire country was gradually covered by IT (Information Technology) infrastructure.

"So business will be cheaper, government services like e-commerce, e-agriculture, e-education, e-health - I think this is the way for the country to go."

APEC offers PNG leadership role in regional trade scene

Hosting this year's APEC leaders summit could see also Papua New Guinea assert some leadership on pressing international trade issues.

Alan Bollard said the summit offered PNG a leading role at a time of trade frictions between the US and China, and signs of protectionism in the Asia Pacific.

"I think it's offering them leadership on the very big world stage, and a way to influence how APEC goes on potentially quite a difficult year with evolving trade frictions. Papua New Guinea is pushing for continued pressure to keep trade open and growing, and to use that to keep economies growing."

Dr Bollard said PNG's prospects of building its position as a resources hub are dependent on the wider Asia region continuing its big growth story.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs