Papua New Guinea’s Digital Government Bill to herald in major e-government reforms


With the Digital Government Bill scheduled to be presented to Papua New Guinea’s Parliament this month, Steven Matainaho, Secretary of Department of Information and Communication Technology, shares with Business Advantage PNG some of the Bill’s goals and provides a glimpse of what eGovernment in PNG could look like in the not-so-distant future.

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): The Digital Government Bill is set and scheduled to be presented to Parliament as early as this moth. What is it designed to achieve?

Steven Matainho (SM): The Bill is similar to both the Public Service Management Act and the Public Finance Management Act, in that it has a whole-of-government approach to it. The only way to get a digital government is a whole-of-government approach.

What the Digital Government Bill proposes is to establish and define our wide range of digital government-related standards. It also establishes some compliance measures.

It’s basically an enforcement method mechanism to foster raised standards across all government agencies and public bodies. It also establishes government governance structure for us to implement various eGovernment-related initiatives.

‘One of the key provisions in the Digital Government Bill is the establishment of a National Cybersecurity Centre’

There are a few other key important enablers within the Bill itself. For example, we are now opening up our data to both the private and the public sectors, so there is an ‘open data’ provision in the Bill. Basically, SMEs, business houses and corporate companies that need critical services, such as digital ID verification or exchange of critical data, [will be able to access it].

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It’s a lot of data that we will start to now make seamlessly available from government to government, from government to business, and also from government to citizens.

BAPNG: As far as business is concerned, are we going to be able to interact with the government in a much more efficient way?

SM: Yes, I think efficiency is also a key word here because, through the various standards (and here we are also talking at an infrastructure level), we want to make sure that government agencies are well organised and efficient in the way they present and put together their services.

BAPNG: Is there a program to bring together or control data, making sure it’s controlled properly?

SM: Yes. First of all, we are establishing within the Bill for a Secure Data Exchange Platform. This will facilitate a secure exchange of data or a ‘handshake’ of information to and from agencies and again to citizens and business houses.

We are also talking about the importance of having governance when you talk about the back end. For that to happen, we need to set up a proper framework for a secure infrastructure arrangement for government agencies to operate within. So, at the end of the day, it’s about security as well as efficiency.

BAPNG: Security is a big issue, obviously. What does PNG need to do to make sure that its systems are secure?

SM: We need to have enforced cybersecurity standards. One of the key provisions in the Digital Government Bill is the establishment of a National Cybersecurity Centre, which we hope can eventually service not just government agencies but provide awareness to the public, SMEs and even have some high level of partnership with bigger companies, so that we have not just a whole-of-government approach but a full sector approach that addresses cybersecurity issues.

BAPNG: One of the projects you have under way is a census of all PNG government websites. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

SM: We’ve done some study on websites and web services offered by government to see where they’re hosting it, how they’re hosting it, and the security around it. We haven’t released that report but what we can see is that there is a need for agencies to step up with security and efficiencies. This is really why the Digital Government Bill is important, so that we can provide the enforcement mechanisms required to get them to that state where they are reliable and provide an efficient and fast service.

BAPNG: What sort of projects should we be expecting from your department over the next 12 months?

SM: We’ve got two major initiatives. Within the Bill, we have the National eGovernment Portal, where we will start integrating services […] We’d like to have a viable product launched before the end of this year.

‘The vision is that we have fewer lines [of customers] but efficient services.’

Parallel to that is a Secure Data Exchange platform. We’d like to have more discussions about it with interested vendors and also utilise a whole-of-government approach to get the best expertise from within.

BAPNG: There have discussions between Amazon and the Treasurer recently, with your Minister expressing concern about the approach. What’s your feeling about the best approach?

SM:  We encourage any investor to come in and any partners to come in. But, when it relates to public cloud services or government cloud services, I think it’s important that the ICT Ministry has a say on it, and that’s also essentially pegged in the Bill as well – that due process must take place for the purpose of security.

BAPNG: How is the process working with the civil registration process, such as capturing biometrics for national ID cards or potential voter registration projects? Is this on the plans as well?

SM: You’ve touched on an important foundation of digital government – and that’s the [digital] ID. Obviously, we’ve got challenges with the NID (National Identification Card) but we’ve got a good team internally really trying to push that agenda. There are some technological changes happening in there as well, which is good news.

We’re hoping we can reach a certain mark with the NID so that we have sufficient data to be used as primary data. Moving on from that will be critical in terms of the secure data exchange platform we are building.

BAPNG: Technology is always changing but if we fast forward two or three years, what will the public and business community see as a result of this project?

SM: Looking at the stats, in terms of mobile network connectivity, we’ve got some data showing that we are under the 45 per cent to 50 per cent mark in terms of population coverage. Other data is telling us that our coverage reaches 60 per cent. For us, that’s good news because we’re hoping that a lot of services can start to be online, and we can start to develop indicators.

The vision is that we have fewer lines [of customers] but efficient services.

Currently, we’ve got good news with the Lands Department and the Immigration  and Citizenship Authority. We also have the Department of Higher Education, while the Investment Promotion Authority has been a trailblazer going online. That’s been a good start towards improving ease of business but, obviously, we still have a lot to do.

I think that, with the whole-of-government approach, we can achieve a lot as compared to standalone initiatives. This Bill is really important to get us to get where we want to be.


  1. Wilson says

    This is certainly going to be efficient and reliable. I’m thankful for this Bill

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