A very big thank you to the University of PNG, INA, NRI, ADB, Business Council of PNG, Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Consultative and Monitoring Council for hosting the ICT workshop at UPNG.
We had a good size crowd there with a nice mix of industry players, consultants, aid workers, students and government officers. I got in a bit late and was able to catch the last part of Prof. Sumbuk’s analysis on the ICT Policy and as I walked in to find a seat in the front, I was quite impressed with how many people had turned up. The main focus of the workshop was for the speakers to comment on the ICT policy and to give their experiences and opinions and what they felt would best way for the policy serve the ICT industry. Chairman of the speakers noted that the great number of people that turned up was a good indication of the high level of interest in the subject matter and what it entailed for PNG.
Before I go on, you can see the programme and list of speakers at this link (ict-workshop-programme.doc), and copies of the ICT policy documents are listed below:
- IPBC Covering letter
- PNG Telecommunications Deregulation Blueprint (May 2007)
- National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy
Quite allot was said as the workshop ran for the whole day with a range of interesting speakers. Unfortunately I was only able to get the papers of 2 speakers. I will go through the papers of 2 speakers first and as I get papers of the others I’ll write them up as as well. Most of it I have as notes so I’ll also write those up as well in the next couple of posts.
- Prof Ken Sumbuk, Pro Vice-Chancellor: A general over view of IT and a timeline of the technologies developed that have lead us to the IT of today was shown.
- In regards to the ICT policy, Prof. stated that Part 1 of the policy should capture the distinctive purpose of the policy, which is the continuous improvement of existing facilities and at the same time employing a careful introduction of new communications technologies. The objectives and goals should be realistic and be reflective of the current status of the ICT in PNG. In his opinion the policy was not focusing on the things that will make the most progress toward accomplishing the vision of the policy paper.
- In Part 2 of the policy paper, in regards to ICT infrastructure and access. He stated that it would be a major challenge to ensure that appropriate and affordable ICT infrastructure was in place and that it was accessible to as many citizens as possible.
- On the Competitive and Efficient Service Devlivery part of the policy paper, he stated that this was where the policy should ensure healthy competition in the industry. Despite the declarations in the policy of creating competition the ICT policy clearly identifies and protects Telikom as the sole agent of the state in being the wholesaler of the telecommunications services in the country. This is provided for under the Operational Separation Model (NetCo/ServCo). Prof asked if we could honestly talk of a genuine competitive environment for ICT investors with the protection of Telikom being in the policy. Especially considering our current experience with the lack of interconnectivity between B-mobile and Digicel. He stated that the next abvious question then to ask was who will protect Service Delivery Companies (ServCo’s) in this monopolised Telco environment. Would it be ICCC?
- On the Use of Internet, he could not agree more with the policies recognition of the importance and use of the Internet in today’s society. He cited statistics that in 2000, more than 106 million US citizens went online with 80% looking for information, 73% researching a product or service before buying, 68% looking for travel information and 65% looking for information on movies, books and leisure activities. He hoped that this aspect of the policy would be fully realised and implemented.
- On Educating the Nation, his point was that obviously the internet needs to play a crucial role here. However despite the recognition in the policy educational institutions, especially universities have been constantly blocked from acquiring licenses for the educational purposes. UPNG had in fact applied twice and on both attempts had been knocked back. Prof believed that this was not in line with the spirit of the ICT policy. He stated that this aspect needed to be vigorously implemented if we were to be serious about ICT assisting in the education of the nation.
- On Policy, Legal and Ruglatory Structures, crime related to interconnectivity and easy access to the internet is widespread in the western world. So it was important that intellectual property rights and consumer rights were also protected by legislation in this regard.
- On the Role of Government and Development, essentially the government is simply to be an enabler, regulator and provider of ICT based services.
- Prof. explained that in look at the policy and any policy really for that matter. 3 important questions need to be asked for a fuller understanding. 1) Feasibility, how difficult is it? in other words what investment both in terms of finance and human resources will be required to make it work? 2) Acceptability, How worthwhile is it? As in what returns in terms financial and performance improvement will it give? 3) Vulnerability, what could go wrong? What are the risks involved if things go wrong?
- Other suggestions made were that the policy should have included attempts to cooperate also on a regional scale with PNG’s ICT development. The policy also concentrated only on mobile and internet and didn’t go into any detail regarding the media such as radio and TV. Lastly no clear provision was made as to how the rural population could be catered for specifically.
- In conclusion Prof Sumbuk’s opinion was that the policy was overly ambitious and impractical in achieving a truly competitive environment.
2. Lois Stanley, Lawyer/ICT specialist/lecturer, UPNG: Lois gave a run down of the legal history in terms of how the ICT industry started and arriving at where it is today. She discussed the current legislative arrangements and the law under which the sector is regulated and operated; and she gave her thoughts on the new ICT policy.
- Historical Background. Department of Posts and Telegraph was established in 1955 by the Australian colonial administration. There were 42 post offices across the then colony of Papua and New Guinea and 17 telephone exchanges operated by hand-wound magnetos.
- Use of telephone was reviewed in 1962. Subsequently the Telecommunications Division was established.
- From just a Department of Posts and Telegraph, the department was changed to the Department of Information and Communication in 1973 when the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was established. It took over the operations of the PNG branch of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the broadcasting arm of what was known as the Dept. of Information and extension Studies.
- The Department of Posts & Telegraph ceased to exist on 9th December 1975, its functions and responsibilities were subsumed under the newly formed Department of Public Utilities on 10 December 1975. It became the Postal and Telecommunications Services within this new Department.
- Following an NEC decision on 9th September 1981, an executive steering committee was setup. It’s purpose – to make a change on the status of Postal and Telecommunications Services to a “Legal Commercial Entity”
- After the executing steering committee presented it’s final report to the NEC on 16th December 1981, the NEC gave approval for the drafting of an enabling legislation. An implementation group was then formed to carry out the recommendations from the Steering Committee.
- The drafting of the Bill done by the Chief Legislative Draftsman, Officer Fraser was eventually passed into law by the National Parliament on 15 February 1982. The Post & Telecommunication Act 1982 took effect on 1 July 1982.
- Due to a shift in government policy in 1996 the Corporation was split up and corporatised. The split and corporatisation saw the creation of Telikom PNG Ltd, Post PNG Ltd and the Papua New Guinea Telecommunications Authority (PANGTEL).
- Telikom PNG ltd. was tasked with the provision of telecommunication services for profit and was given necessary legislative backing under the Telikom PNG Ltd Act 1996. Under the Telecommunications Act 1996, Telikom was given exclusive rights up to the year 2001 to provide all forms of telecommunication services within PNG and between PNG and other countries.
- Post PNG Ltd. was incorporated as a public company on 24 December 1996 and commenced trading in January 1997 as a 100% state-owned company. it is responsible for the provision of postal services for profit. Although a limited liability company incorporated under the Companies Act, it is legislatively empowered under the Postal Services Act 1996 and is given exclusive rights to carry letters and other postal related activities.
- PANGTEL, the Papua New Guinea Telecommunication Authority was established on 1st Jan 1997 by the Telecommunications Act 1996. Its creation was part of Government’s policy to corporatise Post & Telecommunications Corporation (PTC) and divide it into three different organisations: two service delivery companies incorporated as public companies under the Companies Act and on regulatory and licensing authority. PANGTEL became the sole regulator and licensing authority of the telecommunications and broadcasting in PNG.
- The radio communications sector includes radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbital positions. The radio frequency spectrum is managed pursuant to the Radio Spectrum act 1996. PANGTEL is also responsible for the management of the PNG orbital satellite parking slots.
- B-Mobile is a wholly owned subsidiary of Telikom PNG Ltd established in the late 1990′. It is regulated by the regulatory contracts pertinent to competition law issued under the Independent Consumers & Competition Commission Act 2002.
- IPBC, came into being on 30 June 2002 through its enabling legislation – IPBC Act 2002. It holds all state assets and liabilities of those state-owned enterprises (SOE). In the last Somare government (2002-June-2007), Hon. Arthur Somare was responsible for Information and Communication portfolio, and it was in that capacity that he was pushing the ICY Policy – essentially to continue to protect the business interest of Telikom PNG Ltd – a SOE for which he had political responsibility.
- Current Developments on the ICT Policy. The current policy being discussed was launched by the then Minister for Public Enterprise, Information and Development Co-operation, Hon. Arthur Somare on July 6 2007. The policy discusses a wide range of issues relating to why PNG needs to develop an ICT policy. The ares of focus are; ICT Infrastructure and Access; Competitive and Efficient Service Delivery; Educating the Nation; Policy, Legal and Regulatory Structures; and Role of Government in ICT and Development.
- Key players in ICT sector, are 1) Public, 2) Telikom, 3) National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), 4) PANGTEL, (5) ICCC [my opinion though is that the private sector like the ISP’s should have been mentioned]
- Case Study of Digicel, which is a good case study of competition law being tested.
- The results of competition in only 3 weeks from Digicel’s entry into the mobile phone market showed an estimated increase in connected mobile phones from 160,000 to 315,000 and a growth in phone penetration from 3.75% to 6.3% (figures were market intelligence; phone penetration estimated connects divided by 6million pop. A 69% increase in total connects for PNG users in 3 weeks – the fastest growing network in the Asia Pacific region)
- Role of ICCC, is primarily tp act as the independent utilities regulator, free from any political interferences. Under the reform of utilities there were two requirements and these were – 1) Independent, professional regulation; and 2) the introduction of competition where appropriate.
- Any mobile phone company in PNG is a declared entity under s33 of the ICCC Act. So Regulatory Contracts were issued to each of the participants in the mobile phone market by ICCC as provided for under s35 of the ACT.
- Regulatory contracts are created statutorily under Part III, s.35(1) of the ICCC Act. Under s.37(2) of the ICCC Act a Regulatory Contract takes effect on the date of which a National Gazette is published or a later date of commencement specified in the regulatory contract.
- A Regulatory Contract is enforceable under s.38 of the ICCC Act, where in the opinion of the ICCC the contract is being contravened. The penalty of any contravention is a fine not exceeding K10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Kina), which is provided for under s39 of the Act.
- A Regulatory Contract differs from a normal contract in that normal contracts are enforceable under common law, while the former is enforceable through the ICCC Act
- In Conclusion Lois stated that in her opinion the ICT Policy was essentially aimed at strengthening and transforming Telikom and because of this the policy was against competition laws and regulatory contracts that were statutorily issued. All participants are bound by the December 2005 policy that was implemented by the government to introduce mobile phone competition.