Cashless conversion: Papua New Guinea gets ready for an ecommerce revolution

Welcome,

The Coral Sea Cable has landed and the pandemic has forced more businesses to go online, so has ecommerce’s time finally come in PNG? Business Advantage PNG’s latest business briefing asks some of the experts.

In a country where cash has traditionally been king, Papua New Guinea’s entrepreneurs, telcos and financial institutions have been chipping away in the background, working on getting PNG to take the step into ecommerce.

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Now, a confluence of factors is accelerating the pace of change. The Coral Sea Cable and Kumul Submarine Cable System are set to make the country’s internet faster and cheaper, while the COVID-19 pandemic favours remote working and cashless payments. It is stimulating scenario for ecommerce.

Belinda Manning, Head of Digital – Implementation and Performance at Bank South Pacific (BSP), says that the main challenge lies in bringing people in from the fringes of the economy who may never have used ecommerce before.

‘The domestic solution [to ecommerce] is going to be a game changer if we get it right,’ she said during Business Advantage PNG online business briefing on ecommerce, sponsored by KPMG.

‘We talk about technology, but we have to also understand the business model and what the customers want and how the business logic works.’

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BSP has had an internet payment gateway for the past 18 months (Westpac PNG is also an established player in online merchant services). Bmobile and small businesses such as Tapioca Delight have been the first to take part. Ticket Bilum, a service that allows you to purchase tickets to events, recently announced the integration of BSP’s internet payment gateway into its online ticketing app.

So far, online purchasing in PNG has been limited to those few with a credit card. In a move that has the potential to greatly expand opportunities for both consumers and vendors, Manning says that BSP would soon be launching online payments using an ATM card.

‘Customers would only need to have a bank account – not just a Visa or Mastercard, but any proprietary card that is issued by BSP,’ Manning says. ‘We are extending our reach, from a consumer perspective, from 60,000 people to 1.7 or 1.8 million, which I think is going to be critical for the market.’

Who should consider ecommerce?

Reelae’s Samson Korawali.

One of the most successful ecommerce projects in PNG so far is the Immigration and Citizenship Authority’s online visa system, which is powered by BSP’s payment gateway.

Manning says that the online visa has been a success in two ways: speeding up visas for customers – down from a matter of weeks to days – and getting visa payments into PNG faster rather than having them sitting in an offshore account as they once did.

Samson Korawali, tech entrepreneur and co-founder of online learning service Reelae, says that ecommerce will be positive for Papua New Guinea.

Korawali, who was also behind the launch Go Food PNG – a food home delivery system, that now has 20 full-time employees, has plans to expand around the Pacific.

‘We talk about technology, but we have to also understand the business model and what the customers want and how the business logic works,’ he says.

Paying remotely will also allow smaller operators to take their goods to the world.

‘I would love to see operators export bilums, arts and crafts … Even think about online teaching so that we can teach our language and culture. We need to preserve this – and what better way than creating a service?’

What does the future hold?

Bosa Togs, Head of Information Technology at Telikom PNG, says that telecoms will be the ‘backbone’ of a switch to online payments. High-speed capacity is now available with the Kumul Submarine Cable already running up to Madang. There are plans for another cable, coming from PNG’s north, to be in place at the end of this year, to deliver greater redundancy.

Togs adds that the other key driver will be one of trust.

‘Security is often an afterthought but it is the first thing that should be considered,’ she says. ‘Security is key in ecommerce. Businesses need to consider the security of their process and the hosted environment, they have to do due diligence checks especially on their payment gateway.

‘With Telikom, we are trying to get certified in the ISO stream, so that we bring confidence to the customer. We want to build that confidence and trust.’

Comments

  1. Sounds good and it has been a long time plan for me to start up an online ecommerce website.

    I think It’s going to be good for working class but am thinking about the other group of people who don’t have appropriate device system that will provide marketing system for all

    Maybe employing workers to share their device for others to make use of it. It will take time, effort and money but it should work out.

    From Julie Teariki-Tautea

  2. KennedyKulip says

    Love the idea of ecommerce. I can only think of how it will enable people to interact not only domestically but on an international level.

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