Can Social Media Transform Papua New Guinea? Reflections and Questions

by Mitchell Rooney

As of July 2012 there just over 100,000 registered facebook users in Papua New Guinea (PNG), most of whom are below the age of 35, and an increasing array of PNG related websites. The explosion in the use of social media by Papua New Guineans is changing the way that they are engaging in politics, business and social activities on the home front. It is also changing the way that the international community is engaging with Papua New Guinea (PNG). In an unprecedented style, resonant with tours made by highly public figures and dignitaries, a young PNG man (Martyn Namorong, prolific blogger, self described betel nut seller and grassroots person) undertook a privately sponsored two week visit to the Australian cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra in 2012. This visit entailed an advance announcement and a highly publicised agenda and programme wherein he met with prominent Australian PNG experts, politicians, journalists, ordinary Australian residents and gave seminars to a variety of Australian audiences.


A number of recent articles and radio interviews (Radio Australia, ABC, 4 July 2012;  Radio Australia, ABC, 5th July 2012Rausim! Social media and political protest in Papua New GuineaCatherine Graue of Australia Network) with pioneering social media practitioners reveals some important features of the emergence of social media in PNG. These people include Emmanuel Narakobi (administrator of the Masalai Blog and the facebook forum Sharp talk); Tavurvur who administers the Garamut blog); Martyn NamorongAlexander Rheeney , (PNG journalist and administrator of PNG Perspective); and Nou Vada (law student, blogger and administrator of The Edebamona Blog). In recognition of this emerging form of media Malum Nalu (Journalist and administrator of the Malum Nalu blogspot) was awarded the UNESCO/Divine Word Institute Award for Communication and Development in 2011.

In her paper, Rausim! Social media and political protest in Papua New Guinea, Sarah Logan talks about the use of social media in the recent political gymnastics in PNG. Inter alia, she highlights two roles of social media. The first is the role of social media in facilitating political protest and the second is its facilitation of civil society engagement in the practice of politics. She also highlights that the limitations on the use of social media include the limited numbers of users and the general sense of “political apathy” and “fragmented political identity” associated with PNG politics (Sarah Logan).

Martyn Namorong and Alexander Rheeney highlight (ABC Radio Australia) how PNG society is very community based and many educated and urban based Papua New Guineans remain closely connected with their rural based families. They point out that this means that the current numbers of facebook users represents a significant mass of PNG society whose engagement through social media has the potential of being translated and amplified through various offline networks. The far wider coverage of basic mobile phone services (phone calls and text messages) adds to this amplification effect.

Much of the discussion is focussed on how social media is revolutionising the way in which Papua New Guineans are engaging in the political arena. For example, Narakobi highlights that during the Easter 2012 political protests membership of the sharp talk facebook forum jumped from between 3000 and 4000 to over 6000.

Yet, other questions emerge beyond the potential role of social media in political transformation. Core to these is: How do social, development and political actors (national and international) translate this social revolution into something that matters for those that need it most? In this regard, two questions emerge:

  1. How can society manage the institutions that are created to ensure the principles of democracy – accountability, transparency, fairness, justice and equality – function to protect society as it shifts and responds to new and emerging power actors that are in a position at this point in history to harness the power of social media for a specific agenda?
  2. How can the power of social media facilitate a better engagement between, not only civil society and political actors, but also between civil society and development actors to bring about tangible development outcomes?

Both these questions are particularly important within the PNG context where lack of political will, corruption and lack of implementation capacity are the main impediments to development; violence is an explicit and blatant form of power; literacy rates are below 50%; over 30% of the population live below the poverty line; there are over 700 languages; and systems of law and order and law enforcement are dysfunctional at best. They are also important for development policy where an environment of functioning democracy, political stability and protection of society is the foundation for the achievement of development outcomes.

The following paragraphs are intended to highlight just some of the dynamics emerging in the social media sphere in PNG.

That the above referred social media pioneers have chosen different forms of public representation – real name versus pseudonym – is revealing of the social and political dynamics underpinning the use of social media in PNG. Namorong says that using his real name adds credibility and accountability to his writing. Another advantage is the direct credit that one receives for their contribution via social media. One disadvantage is the security of a person who speaks out on a sensitive issue such as corruption. On the other hand, Tavurur has blogged very successfully (high quality, high number of followers and sustained over a number of years) for several years now. In other cases, such as a facebook forum, the use of a pseudonym poses questions of transparency and accountability on the part of a forum administrator.

In a country where names are often synonymous with ethnicity, family and sometimes political affiliation and in a context where corruption and violence are widespread, it is understandable that some may wish to conceal their real identities when engaging in the public sphere. It is also interesting to see that many people use their real identities and openly write about issues such as corruption and violence. In one example, a woman in a forum of over 1000 people wrote how she did not support a relative who was a candidate in the election. She acknowledged that she might get in trouble with the family for speaking out but felt that she needed to have her say. In another example, in the PNGians against domestic violence forum, which has over 6000 members, women publicly plead for help to deal with violent situations. These examples reveal a civil society that is actively engaging on matters that affect their lives and that social media presents an accessible avenue to do so. Whether it is a safe and free median to engage is yet to be seen.

The table below provides a snapshot of some of the forum profiles and membership figures and reveals a variety of styles. Closed versus open groups; known administrators versus unknown administrators; provincial focus versus national or issue based focus. Membership of groups ranges from anywhere below 100 to over 6000.


I conclude by raising some issues for consideration in the hope of stimulating further dialogue.

  1. How does PNG society ensure that this shift in power and voice towards those who master the art of social media is made in a way that new power actors are equally held accountable for what they say and do with their skill in an evolving social context?
  2. How does society protect the rights and security of those who wish to speak up on corruption and violence?
  3. How does society respond to social demands created by the opportunities opened by social media? For example the voices of women who publically seek help in violent situations invoke a joint social responsibility for immediate support but they also create opportunities for those in the policy and development arena to formulate appropriate responses.
  4. Are issues on cyber education and safety, including the protection of children, being integrated into the formal and informal education system? Is funding being made available for organisations to run training courses on cyber safety in all communities?
  5. In terms of public and private partnership, might we see a proliferation of bill boards, TV advertisements, mobile phone alerts akin to donor supported HIV/AIDS and other billboards promoting the safe and responsible use of social media?
  6. Has the PNG Ombudsman Commission created an avenue to enable engagement with civil society through social media?
  7. Has the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary created an avenue to enable engagement with civil society through social media?
  8. Is there an Electoral Commission facilitated forum to enable feedback and election observation through social media?
  9. Some development agencies, including donors, multilateral agencies, international financial institutions and NGOs are already engaging with civil society through social media in some of the countries they work in. Is it time for development partners and donors in PNG to embrace this social revolution in the same way?
  10. Are those tasked with development policy formulation, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation, actively exploring ways of tapping into the opportunities presented by social media to engage with civil society?
  11. Is it possible that in the near future PNG will have an online and social media facilitated “development partner” and “civil society” forum?

Whatever the answer to these questions, it is clear that there are huge implications for the practice of development in PNG. If social media is to make a difference in PNG beyond its ability to reshape the political arena, it must be utilised as a tool by all actors interested in the development of PNG to translate this new energy into tangible development outcomes.



Papua New Guinea seeks higher tax take for ExxonMobil gas expansion

12/05/2016 – By: Exxon Staff

Papua New Guinea is preparing to negotiate new fiscal terms for a US$10 billion expansion of ExxonMobil’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Pacific nation in a push to boost revenue, PNG Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch said on Sunday.

The bid comes amid rising concern among rural landowners that they have yet to see the full benefits of the US$19 billion PNG LNG project after more than two years of operation.

ExxonMobil now wants to add a third production unit.

PNG has been hit hard by a slump in oil and gas prices and a drought which crippled farming and brought production to a halt at its largest copper mine to a standstill.

Key Speakers At 21st World Petroleum Congress

“Current metal and oil prices do not support what we are doing,” Pruaitch told Reuters in an interview ahead of a conference in Sydney where the government is looking to drum up investment in the mining and energy sectors.

“Our message is that we have a sufficient pipeline of projects…The time to do the hard yards is now,” he said.

Two multibillion dollar copper and gold projects, Wafi Golpu owned by Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold, and Frieda River owned by Guangdong Rising Assets Management, are awaiting the government’s green light by mid-2017.

The government has more than halved its forecast for GDP growth this year to 2 percent. For next year it sees growth picking up to 2.8 percent, based on higher copper and oil prices.

To boost revenue, the government wants to raise US$640 million by selling a 4.27 percent stake in the PNG LNG project to landowners, but a deal has been stalled by disputes over landowners’ entitlements.

“I’m desperate to ensure that every available revenue that I can use to fund this year’s budget I will put my hands on, including the proceeds of the sale of 4.27 (percent),” Pruaitch said.

PNG recently lined up a US$500 million loan from Credit Suisse, after putting on hold plans to raise US$1 billion with a sovereign bond issue, due to market volatility. Pruaitch said the government still wants to pursue a bond issue in 2017, but it was more likely to be for US$500 million.

With dwindling revenue from mining, the government was counting on LNG — with contract prices tied to oil — to return the budget to surplus by 2020. Yet with a slump in oil prices, it now expects deficits to persist for at least another five years.

Pruaitch said the government aims to reach a deal with ExxonMobil over new tax terms for expansion of the PNG LNG project in 2017, to ensure it goes ahead in time for an expected upturn in the LNG market early in the next decade.

It is important to negotiate better terms for the country on what is expected to be a $10 billion project, he said…

PNG National Elections 2017: Emphasis on Job creation and income generating opportunities is a must

By: Dr. Charles Yala

The journey to the 9th PNG National Parliament has just started.  I take this opportunity of the festive season and the beginning of a new year to reflect on what is in store for 2017 for our beloved PNG.  Festivities for Christmas and New Year are just behind us, but the tempo for more celebrations will rise as we approach the national elections in the middle of the year.

National elections, however, are serious matters that impact on all our lives, and the lives of those yet to be born.  The path to the PNG National Parliament is fraught with costly and difficult challenges.  Nonetheless, parliamentarians will be elected and an executive government formed before 2017 comes to an end. Political life will roll-on in the land of the unexpected, with unexpected consequences. I draw on a book I am now reading and the plight of many unemployed in PNG to give shape to a topic of immense national significance: that of opportunities for income generation.


Festive Season and Election 2017

I began writing this article on 31 December 2016. It was a very hot day and my family, having earlier watched Moana at the cinema with our neighbours, had been busy preparing for our new year celebration meal of roast lamb, potatoes, salad, and cake for dessert. During the festive season, I began reading (former Australian journalist turned politician) Maxine McKew’s recent book, Tales from the Political Trenches. My thoughts started to process the story line in Moana, our New Year roast and the events described in Maxine’s book. Shaped by these thoughts, I started to write this article.

While the family roast reminded me of the new year parties across the length and breadth of PNG during the festive season leading to an election year, Moana reminded me of the development of traditional leadership skills, and the rise to leadership across the Pacific Islands, including PNG. Maxine McKew’s book provided an account of Australian political life, with McKew having defeated the sitting Prime Minister, John Howard, in the seat of Bennelong in New South Wales. She made Australian political history as only the second person to unseat an incumbent Australian Prime Minister in a national election. Details of her campaign strategy and her appreciation of the role she wanted to play as the local member of parliament were interesting to read.

These three events – my family preparing roast lamb for the New Year’s eve dinner,  Moana finding her place and leadership role, and McKew emerging to be a giant killer in the Australian political scene – reminded me of the kind of events that must be taking place across PNG throughout this festive period, given that 2017 is a  National Election Year.

From personal experience, I have seen aspiring candidates and their supporters use the festive season leading to the election year to  launch election campaigns. This is the period where political interests start to take shape and intending candidates start to convey their interests with their supporters, close friends and families.

I am quite sure several pigs must have lost their lives across the country during this festive season. Likewise, cartons of Coca-Cola must have been consumed, and the telephone services provided by Digicel and Bmobile/Vodafone would have been running hot as conversations turn to politics across this beautiful and diverse nation. This, of course, is just the beginning. There are more pigs to be slaughtered, more cartons of Coca Cola to be traded,  and more mobile phone and social media conversations to be had in the lead-up to the national elections.

This is the PNG version of modern day parliamentary democratic elections. In my humble opinion, Moana’s and Maxine’s strategies have limited relevance in the context of the PNG National Elections. If the past is any indication, it will be a costly and highly divisive process. Lives will be lost, through both direct and indirect election related causes.  On the other hand, elections in PNG are colourful and vibrant affairs, involving traditional dances and partying. Truck loads of people sing and chant. The midnight oil burns as supporters and candidates strategise and plan through the night.

Has election 2017 started?

While election 2017 has not officially started, the campaign has long been underway. The timing and the way Maxine McKew describes her campaign to unseat John Howard is in direct contrast to what I tried to briefly describe above. While both Australia and PNG have adopted the Westminster  system of parliamentary democracy, elections in both countries are distinctly different. The PNG electoral process has a mixture of Moana’s and Maxine’s worlds – the launch of political interests and campaigns under the guise of Christmas celebrations, the clout of cultural exchanges (i.e. cash for votes), and traditional obligations to muscle-in voters.

Moana’s world is no different to the subsistence way of life found in the PNG rural setting. Maxine’s world in the seat of Bennelong was far away from the realities of PNG’s cities and towns. Our country finds itself caught between the two extremes. It is in this space, where tradition and modernity clash, that the 2017 elections will take place.

Whether we choose to count in Kina, pork, four-wheel drives, or unfortunately even in terms of  human lives, elections in PNG are expensive.  By August 2017, only 111 winners of parliamentary seats will emerge from the thousands of aspirants to represent the seven or so million people of a vastly diverse and geographically  fragmented nation. Our new leaders will not just live in Moana’s world of sea farers or subsistence farmers. They will also compete with Maxine McKew’s Australia and others in a globalised community of nations. These 111 will be national leaders representing and shaping the present and future lives of the PNG people.

What should candidates, political parties and the electorate focus on in Election 2017 ?

What are the real issues and policies that the candidates and the political parties should focus on in the lead up to the elections? Similarly, what should the electorate demand from the candidates and political parties?

While pondering on such questions, I am also mindful that service delivery may not be an expectation from some segments of the community. Likewise, candidates may be lining up to get their share of the cake from the exploitation of the country’s natural resources. The motivations and interests of candidates and voters are more than likely to differ across the country.

As a PNG citizen who has navigated his way out of Moana’s world into McKew’s world, living  and working in Port Moresby, and as the director of the country’s only public funded think tank, I see it as my duty to ask these difficult yet pertinent questions.  My hope is that others will join in raising the level of debate in the lead-up to the  national election. The PNG NRI, as part of its contribution to the 2017 national elections, will be encouraging informed national debate.

Looking beyond the political rhetoric of candidates, political parties and the electorate, the main issue for me is jobs and income generating opportunities. Survival on subsistence farming, which is a reality for more than 80 percent of the country’s population, is a slow and painful path towards destitution through poverty. Promises of improved rural service delivery are, as I have described in few of my earlier writings, a fallacy.  The fallacy has been perpetuated as part of the  ‘feel good’ political rhetoric of many politicians and their supporters, repeated in mobilising votes, and then forgotten soon afterwards. This political rhetoric has been recited at each and every election since independence. I will be surprised if the same does not happen in the current elections.

What the electorate should demand, and the candidates should commit to the people of PNG, both now and into the future, are jobs, jobs, more jobs and income generating opportunities.  It is critical that elected leaders create opportunities for jobs and income generating activities. The electorate should demand this of them. Creating job and income generating opportunities is critical to empowering citizens to have a fulfilling life. Jobs and income generating opportunities will have direct impact on the family (food, clothing, home and education), directly impact on businesses (demand for goods and services creates more businesses), and tax revenue for the state at all levels (national, provincial and municipalities). This will in turn be useful for the apparatuses of the state to provide core public goods.

To place this argument in perspective, we should note the growing number of young people coming out of the education system who need jobs. The bulk of these graduates remain within their village communities. They need meaningful employment and income generating opportunities, rather than leaving them behind to subsist on whatever they can find. Similarly, those living in the expanding squatter settlements around the cities and towns need genuine jobs and income generating opportunities.

Creating jobs, more jobs and income generating opportunities should be the focus of every candidate and political party contesting the national elections in 2017. The electorate should pay attention to the strategies and policies of each candidate and political parties on job creation and income generating opportunities.  Promising rural service delivery and cargo in the form of Coca-Cola, four wheel drive vehicles, banana boats, and roads and bridges that lead to nowhere, will continue to leave the majority of our people on the path to poverty and destitution.

PNG and the people of this great country deserve better. It is incumbent on national leaders elected to deliver on this expectation, and it is the responsibility of each and every voter to demand the best for them from their aspiring representatives.


In 2017, the electorate must demand jobs, more jobs and income generating opportunities. We should refrain from being sold out with cargo. The electorate should know that you cannot have both – cargo and jobs/income generating opportunities. You can only have one and that should be jobs and income generating opportunities.

On this note, for those who make it to the 8th National Parliament, you will be called upon to serve our nation. Your electorate will be an integral part of a nation. A prosperous and cohesive  nation will be a blessing to your electorate. Thinking creatively about job creation and income generating opportunities for the country will be a benefit to your voters in your electorate. In creating jobs for your electorate you will be strengthening the case for your job as the representative of the people.

Kroton Option Exercise by Interested Beneficiary Groups

January 06,2017, 06:46 pm

The Managing Director of Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited (KPHL), Mr Wapu Sonk today announced that the Company has been working with beneficiary groups that have expressed their interest to exercise the Kroton Option Equity.

These groups will be called in over the coming weeks to sign up on the share transfer documents as well as the vendor note being offered by KPHL.


The following beneficiary groups have come forward;

(1) PNG LNG Plantsite

(2) PNG LNG Pipeline

(3) PDL 9 – Juha

(4) PDL 4 – Gobe and,

(5) Fly River Provincial Government.

The option to acquire shares in Kumul Petroleum (Kroton No 2) Holdings Limited is one of the benefits agreed to by the PNG Government and set out in the Umbrella Benefits Sharing Agreement (UBSA) in 2009 for landowners and Provincial Governments along the footprint of the PNGLNG Project.

Under the UBSA the PNG Government granted the landowners and Provincial Governments a commercial option to buy 25.75% of the shares in Kroton No 2 Limited, the special purpose company that holds the State’s 16.57% interest in the PNG LNG Project.

In addition to the beneficiary groups who have registered interest to sign up in the coming weeks, one landowner beneficiary group and four provincial governments have already taken up their Options. They are PDL 5 (Moran); and Southern Highlands, Hela, Gulf and Central provincial governments.

Mr Sonk said; “The Beneficiary Groups who have expressed their intention before the 31st of December 2016 to exercise the Kroton Option using KPHL’s Vendor Finance Facility are hereby advised that signing of the share transfer documents and the Vendor Finance Facility is scheduled in the coming weeks until the 31st of January 2017.”

He pointed out that KPHL’s role was to implement the agreement that was reached in the UBSA and, provide additional benefits for the Landowners and relevant Provincial Governments if they elect to invest in Kroton.

KPHL will work with those beneficiary groups that have signed up to complete the transaction and arrange necessary governance aspects of the interest holdings in Kumul Petroleum (Kroton No 2) Holdings Limited.

Pacific Connectivity a Priority


If you’re old enough to remember business communications via telex, then you’ll understand just how important connectivity is to modern trade and the resulting economic development which in turn brings about significant improvements in health care, education and raises the general standard of living.vsat

It was the 1980s in PNG and I remember the arrival of our shiny new fax machine. It revolutionized the way we communicated. We could draw pictures to illustrate problems and instantly send these to the head office in Australia or the USA. We could place orders for supplies without standing in front of the telex, slowly typing messages that came out on delicate paper punch tape before being run through the machine again and hopefully not breaking mid stream. The fax machine improved our productivity and resulted in measurable improvements in our bottom line.

Fast forward almost 30 years, could you imagine running your business today without email, prevented from marketing your products on social media or not being able to look up manuals and parts catalogs. How could make it through lunch without knowing who was trying to contact you or who had written a review about your latest and greatest product or service, booking your return taxi ride to the office and all from the palm of your hand on your 3G or 4G smart phone. If all of a sudden you couldn’t do these things, your business would grind to a halt wouldn’t it? Well this is the every day experience that many hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Pacific face each and every day and in 2015 no less.

In Port Moresby, Honiara, Port Vila, Suva, Funafuti, Tarawa, Pago Pago and many more Pacific Island cities there’s a mobile communications revolution underway. If you’ve traveled through the islands recently you’ll agree that there’s an undeniable communications revolution underway. Some of the luckiest cities have undersea fiber cables, some have new ultra fast MEO satcom links. However you don’t have to venture too far from town to discover old G.703 E1 microwave links, connecting 2G phone sites. 2G banking and other text based apps are incredibly popular. These old networks will, or are already being crushed by the demand for data throughout the Pacific and not just in the most populace towns and cities but regional areas too. Data and communications demands will increase at an exponential rate in the coming years.

It’s a little old, November 2012 in fact, but I encourage you to take a look at the Lowy Institute for International Policy’s report titled; “Digital Islands: How the Pacific’s ICT Revolution is Transforming the Region”. It can be found here; I find it an extremely interesting read. Just one of the many profound quotes; “What makes the ICT revolution in the Pacific particularly transformative is its potential to address the region’s demographic, geographic and economic challenges”. 

I share the hopes and dreams of the Pacific Islands political and business leadership, that the digital mobile broadband revolution will soon enrich the lives of the Pacific people. Connectivity will bring about political, social, educational, health care and economic reforms that were only dreamt about in recent times.

I’ve recently written of my amazement at the technical and business achievements of O3B. A satellite based fiber replacement in the sky, which has either delayed or negated the need for Pacific Island nations to use their sovereign wealth funds to invest in expensive under sea fiber cables. This MEO system has its place, its pros and its cons. However another transformative technology is on the near horizon for the Pacific, one that will help bridge the digital divide.

Like the long overdue, High Throughput (HTS) Ka Band satellites now being constructed and soon to be launch by Australia’s National Broadband Network Co. a new provider will soon be over head providing the same NBN like speeds and service to the Pacific. Kacific will bring the next wave of affordable broadband to homes, villages and businesses throughout the Pacific Islands. In addition large parts of under served regional and remote parts of Asia, like Indonesia’s far flung Islands, which are not so different from the South Pacific Islands, these will also benefit from Kacific’s new satellite. Not to mention parts of NZ which will also soon have an ultra fast and affordable Ka Band HTS satellite service via Kacific.

With powerful and focused Ka Band spot beams across the vast distance of the Pacific Ocean, Kacific will deliver broadband speeds at never before seen pricing, in places you would never have suspected and all by using quite inexpensive end user terminal equipment. The company’s web site says that the potential market for their new satellite is in excess of 40 million people. A market they’ll clearly lead and dominate in the very near future given their innovative approach to the problem and regional uniqueness.

It’s worth taking a look at their web site;

Just look at the success of companies like Digicell who are investing in the Pacific’s digital future and reaping the financial rewards for doing so. When Kacific eventually lists I’d say take a punt, this is something that will not only make business sense for your investment portfolio, but you’ll be helping the people of the Pacific Islands into a new digital future of health, economic freedom, global participation and happiness.