Could Papua New Guinea develop a generation of technology entrepreneurs?

Information and telecommunications technology can be a driver of new jobs and business efficiency in Papua New Guinea. Technology specialist Priscilla Kevin tells Business Advantage PNG of her own venture into the ICT business and suggests how others might follow.

ICT Entrepreneur, Priscilla Kevin

In4net’s Priscilla Kevin

‘Priscilla Kevin is one of the younger generation of PNG entrepreneurs,’ notes Paul Barker, Executive Director of the Institute of National Affairs in Port Moresby, ‘and one of an even smaller group of confident and worldly women entrepreneurs, who has stepped into the traditionally male enclave of engineering and ICT [information and communications technology].’

Kevin runs a Port Moresby-based ICT consultancy, In4net, which she set up in 2013. It now provides ICT management and advisory services, financial business data analysis and general consulting services to around 20 companies.

New industry

‘When I was at the National High, before I chose computer science, I was offered a scholarship to be a pilot. But I was very interested in computer science,’ says Priscilla.

‘It was a new industry,’ she tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘The ICT industry has great potential, but the environment in which it operates needs to be looked at.

‘We are in the knowledge era and the internet and ICT is very new to the country, just over 10 years old, so there is great interest in the ICT industry as a career.’

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Much of the sector’s unharnessed potential is in the rural sector, where electricity often doesn’t exist and the cost of internet access is high.

‘Rural people don’t have access to basic key information to enable them to grow their communities to develop their communities.

‘Power is just one of the bigger challenges, especially for businesses. They can’t use ICT because of the power, the high cost of the internet.’

Cluster

Last year, Kevin participated in the European Union’s Business Climate program, which brought together ICT specialists in PNG to ‘to create collaboration, connect with government and the private sector.’ [It was one of four such clusters in the Pacific—the others were in Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu.]

A major barrier to developing a culture of entrepreneurship in PNG, she says, is the cost of starting up a new business.

An outcome of the cluster work has been to begin talks with the national government on creating an Intellectual Property Rights (IP) law.

‘We’re saying there is potential for PNGs to invent and innovate but we don’t have any IP protection in PNG,’ says Kevin.

Entrepreneurial spirit

Other initiatives include advocating tax incentives for ICT SMEs, reducing internet costs, and promoting entrepreneurship, mentorship and venture capital market opportunities for PNG businesses.

‘There has a lot of focus on entrepreneurship and last year we started up our first entrepreneurship training with Australian Business Volunteers. It involves one month’s training mentorship.

‘We’re trying to create an entrepreneurial spirit.’

Challenges

The PNG Government currently legislating to encourage the development of small business. A major barrier to developing a culture of entrepreneurship in PNG, Kevin thinks, is the cost of starting up a new business.

‘The major cost is rent. Real estate is really expensive and so is Internet cost, but it is also difficult to promote who you are, and what you do.’

Over the next 12 months, Kevin wants to grow her business and that highlights another challenge for entrepreneurs—access to funding.

‘Startups do not always have the much-needed capital to accelerate an idea,’ notes Kevin.

Comments

  1. McShayne. S. Savino says:

    Yes we can! but first we must all, come together as one and do what is right for the our country, Papua New Guinea and not expecting our country to do it for us. If our country needs this approach going forward, then so be it, let us be about it and not talk about it. Process it, plan it and initiate some action plans into motion, on that avenue or any others for that matter,for change to take effect, Remember ladies and gentlemen, if we want change, let us be the change and not wait for the change.

  2. Abrielle says:

    Thankyou Priscila for an inspiring articulation. Its true, individual has the potentials in SME development but the start up capitial is not in everyone’s pocket. I know its one of the biggest challenges. Second point relates to rental is very very very true. I started up a small cafe bizz at the airport, after three months, I can not longer endure the pain of rents.
    Once again thanks for the heads up

  3. Sagar Patel says:

    A lot can be changed in PNG with innovative approach for youngsters as well as national ICT consultants. ICT tensions in Papua New Guinea is known due to few doldrums and monopoly. Well, I am not opposing anyone here but PNG needs talent for future of own ICT sustainability. I was in PNG ICT business for 10 years. I now have wishes and vision to help especially governments in my ICT Consultancy capacity while changing the perception of people to develop by taking PNG to next level. PNG’s younger generations can tackle in foreseeable tenure. Off course, PNG needs specialiats’ support but not to the level of maintenance. New generation can manage their own maintenance of ICT which would likely to save big overhead of labour paid to third parties. I hope you understand PNG is wasting huge fund behind ICT labour charges at the moment which can be curbed by preparing next level PNG’s own ICT Enterpreneures and technical team.

    • Priscilla Kevin says:

      Yes Papua New Guineans can develop and support and sustain its own ICTs that are contextualised to solve some of most pressing economic and social challenges. The environment in the Triple Helix function – Private sector, Academia and Govt will need to support local ICT SME growth and engage in developing legislation that will promote ICT specialisation in country and in digital learning as we live a fast changing world that is information driven. The PNG ICT cluster initiative is an example of an emerging platform that will change the landscape of how talent is developed thru our very important institutions the education network and universities and how localised ICT knowledge skills can become part of PNGs new breed of innovators, inventors and problem solvers.

  4. Dear Priscilla,
    Firstly, I commend you for your decision to choose between flying and ICT. I got excited when I saw your article because of the nature of the ministry that the team and I are involved in. At Learning Technologies PNG, a ministry arm of Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship (CRMF) we do what we can for the remote population, primary focus on the Pastors and Christians. I totally agree with you on the challenges of power availability and the high cost of internet for our rural communities.
    Our ministry’s goal is to be the gap for bibles and biblical resources for the remote via technologies; we are doing these via Mp3 solar powered players, mobile phones, tablets, SD cards, flash drives and wifi bible.
    I just want to say thank you to you for setting the pace and I believe that more people like you who are willing to count the costs and take up the new challenges will certainly provide more opportunities for our remote people to have access to power and internet services.
    I praise God for you as you and others in ICT can be a great help for us who are involved in a specific field like ours, after all, we now live in a global village. Great day to you!

    • Priscilla Kevin says:

      Dear Calne,
      Do agree with you. Internet, ICTs can really help our remote communities that will enable them to develop and engage both in economic and social development including welfare and spiritual development. We hope to connect and see how we can foster the use of ICT and promotion of entrepreneurs to reach market population for specific services that are need. After 3 years the cluster has moved forward based on pure volunteerism and we are happy that we have made connections in the triple helix of govt, academia and private sector to recognize the development of local talent in the digital space and to support and grow entrepreneurs in the ecosystem.

  5. Dear Priscilla,
    I agree with you when it comes to Govt support to reduce Internet Cost and Tax Incentives. I am in business of tourism, just 3 months old and I can feel the high cost of Internet services. The Govt need to do something about this. Might as well submit a proposal as requested by NICTA to review the access of Information and Communication Services.
    Thank you!

  6. Yes we can do it. Papua New Guineans can run technological entrepreneurs provided the government and business house invest in this. If rest of the world is doing it why not PNG?

  7. Ilaiah Bigilale says:

    Dear Priscilla Kevin,

    I for one share the same views. Major problem with no improvement in terms of ICT and the Power sector in PNG is no effective competition..Government run monopoly services, especially the internet service in which they accept themselves (Telikom) as having the only Gateway…..If there is a boost for competition, then internet rates will be suppressed for at least to a minimum. Access to information and outside world has to be affordable and easy access..This will create an environment as you speak of, to motivate and influence the growth of entrepreneurship..Without the availability and cheap easy access to information environment, every time it will just seem to be all talk…..But am thankful for people like you to bring about this approach to light.

    • Priscilla Kevin says:

      Dear Ilaiah,

      Thanks for sharing your views. We can live our dreams and make it happen and Its all about team work and collaboration, it’s about believing in ourselves to bring the change we want for PNG!

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