Jigsaw puzzles used to be the craze many years ago. Not sure why it became boring? Maybe TV killed it, maybe the Internet? I especially remember those ones with a thousand pieces which one of my late aunts used to love doing while puffing on a cigarette and listening to the races. Yeah she was an interesting and fun aunt, but for the life of me I could never understand the attraction of jigsaw puzzles and especially those thousand piece ones. They seriously gave me an instant headache when I saw all the pices scattered to one side while she was slowly piecing it together.
But I guess when you think about it, its that final big picture that you make that drives you to get the pieces right. So you’re probably wondering what the hell is Manu going on about today?? Well seems to me that a number of developments are taking place in PNG which if linked together could possibly create a powerful solution to our issues of internet access and education.
As always when talking about the internet, infrastructure is the first piece to look at. We’ve already noted that Telikom has a new undersea cable coming through PNG past Madang. Then in Madang itself you have a particularly fiesty management at Divine Word University who have fought tooth and nail in leading 6 universities in the country to get the Papua New Guinea Academic and Research Network (PNGARNet) up and running. Then you have the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) pilot programs happening with even more work also being done with music recording using the OLPC. Then finally you have a particularly large country population which is no older than 30.
In a country as large as it is, with the various geographical barriers in the way I’m certainly hopeful that if commercially we cannot connect our people then certainly a not for profit network through the Universities is the way to go. If the RICS project can allign itself with PNGARNet, then we can have access points across the country between Universities and Primary Schools in remote locations around PNG, then couple that with OLPC laptops then we will be looking at a promising picture for expanding education services. Sundar Ramamurthy at Data Nets also mentioned earlier this year at the UPNG ICT Workshop that he was looking at giving free internet to High Schools.
On top of the above IT developments for education you now have the National Television Service (NTS) which is to go on air in September. The NTS will most certainly aim at informing and educating the country as well.
So my mind is spinning already at the though of all these pieces to a puzzle that has to be put together somehow. The one common theme running through all these developments mentioned are that they are all non commercial initiatives. They will all be funded by governments and donor agencies. Which means that they have the potential for co-operating with each other without the issues of commercial competition.
The question I guess is, what type of digital future do we imagine ourselves living in say 2015? Does my little nephew in the village wake up and pop his OLPC laptop in his bilum on his way to the village primary school? When he gets to school will his teacher have downloaded todays reading material from the Divine Word Campus in Wewak? While my nephews at school will his father be able to text for latest copra growing techniques from Vudal University in Rabaul? Maybe later that night another cousin may borrow my nephews OLPC laptop to record some traditional songs from BuBu Man for the community database which is hosted at the schools or remotely in the Universities?
The pieces of the puzzle are scattered on the board now but the difference here to a jigsaw puzzle is that we can dictate what the end big picture will look like. So are all these different players talking to each other? What is the general big picture that we want from all of this if we all collaborate on this? Or more importantly do we know how to work together?
Download a Power Point Doc on PNGARNet here, madang_kegana