By MALUM NALU
This article was first published in The National on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.I wrote this article, based on the visit of a senior US government official to PNG two weeks ago, who said high internet rates in PNG were a major hindrance to development. A week later, Cisco officials visited and said the same thing. This week, Telikom announced reduction of internet rates by 70%.
A senior US government official says PNG will continue to have serious development problems unless it brings down its internet rates down like other Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member countries.
US APEC senior official, Atul Keshap, who was in the country for a short visit last week, told reporters that countries that were giving their citizens the opportunity to express themselves were the ones that focused on giving them access to internet.
|US APEC senior official, Atul Keshap|
“It’s making sure that people have the opportunity to have access to all the information on the internet, on things like weather data, crop planting, crop prices, maternal and child health care,” he said.
“Like, for instance, in countries like Bangladesh or India, or in Africa, they have created a regulatory or a business environment in which people have access to very low cost internet, usually through telephone networks and using very inexpensive smart phones.
“You have access to the entire world of communication, to information, and everything else.
“This has a great democratic effect because all of a sudden, people are empowered, they have access to a tremendous amount of information at their fingertips.”
Keshap said countries that gave their citizens access to cheap, broadband internet, were reaping the rewards.
“They figured out that by giving people access to this incredible, empowering information right in their hands, and making it easy for them to pay for it, actually has an amazing flow-on effect in terms of prosperity, health, transparency, and so many other different things.
“It creates an empowered citizenry, and an empowered citizenry is one that can really contribute to the nation’s wellbeing.
“Lowering the cost of internet is something that other big economies have found really helped for the wellbeing of the people.
“You can find (internet) suppliers in other countries who can supply things cheaper than what might be available (in PNG).”