Identifying digital opportunities Papua New Guinea’s focus during APEC, says Executive Director

The Executive Director of APEC, Alan Bollard, tells Business Advantage PNG that finding digital solutions that suit Papua New Guinea has been a focus of APEC discussions. Trust and integrity will be key factors in implementation.

‘Papua New Guinea has been keen to have an overriding priority on digital opportunities,’ Bollard tells Business Advantage PNG of this year’s APEC agenda.

‘But we have to remember that it is in an economy with very limited broadband access, so that is quite a big ask.

APEC’s Bollard Source: APEC

‘There is very limited digital coverage outside Port Moresby so what we have been doing is focusing on technologies that can be used that are appropriate for PNG’s stage of development.’

Bollard says this means considering remote access issues and looking beyond commerce into areas like health and education.

Solar powered

Bollard says one innovation is a box that is solar powered which will take a thumbprint for identification purposes.

‘You take it out to a village, power it up, people can put their thumbprint on it, it will work out a digital code and then deliver a digital identity, and a digital card, in a way that they can then use to open a bank account or for other government services—or potentially as a voting system.

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‘APEC’s main focus in the digital sphere has been continuing work on getting the big digital platforms linked up.’

‘That has been developed by the PNG central bank.

‘It is very much a cheap, easily portable device and we hope that will help get more inclusivity in terms of being able to get bank accounts for small village traders or growers.’

Big platforms

Bollard says APEC’s main focus in the digital sphere has been continuing work on getting the big digital platforms linked up with all the APEC economies to ‘get small businesses into the marketplace’.

ABAC’s Wayne Golding

Wayne Golding, a member of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), told a recent APEC discussion forum that the focus is on having trusted systems.

‘Trust and integrity is one of the key areas: trust in the data, trust in the people who host your data.

‘That goes beyond your contract with your supplier. It now goes to one level or two levels behind that.

‘You need to ensure that the person you give your data to has the capacity to manage your data.

‘It is critical to develop appropriate consumer protection regulations.’

‘Then it goes one step beyond that, where the people you have supplied have enough connectivity and trust and integrity in their systems.

‘It is now getting to the stage where trust and integrity is a key factor in innovation.’

Payments system

Meanwhile, the International Finance Corporation, a sister organisation of the World Bank, has been working on helping the Bank of PNG develop a digital national payment system strategy.

The IFC’s John Vivian

John Vivian, the IFC’s representative in Papua New Guinea, also emphasises the importance of trust in digital roll-outs.

He tells Business Advantage PNG that it is critical to develop appropriate consumer protection regulations and practices, ‘so that as the wider range of financial services becomes available to a wider reach of Papua New Guineans, it does so with the trust of the people.’

Vivian says work with the payments system is ‘quite well progressed’.

‘We have supported new legislation which was passed and are now focusing implementing regulations and strengthening BPNG’s capacity to oversee their payment systems.’

The IFC is also supporting BPNG’s plans for an ‘interoperable switch’ for cards and mobile payments.

This will be a system that allows customers to use any card or mobile payment product at any merchant, ATM or EFTPOS machine.

‘It will open the system up to more than the current four banks and pave the way for more inclusion in the financial system and potentially innovative payment methods such as the use of QR Codes.

‘All of this work is done with the understanding that the trust of the consumer is paramount,’ Vivian says.

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