Ministerial Statement by Minister for Information & Communications Technology and Member for South Bougainville Hon. Timothy Masiu, MP October Parliament Session 2022

Mr Speaker,

I seek leave of Parliament to make a Ministerial Statement on the interventions undertaken by the Ministry for Information and Communications Technology under the Marape-Rosso Government and to highlight the Government’s plans for the next 24 months.

Mr Speaker,

I thank the Prime Minister the Honourable James Marape for showing confidence by re-appointing me as the Minister for Information and Communications Technology in the Marape-Rosso Government during the 11th Parliament.

In the last 28 months, coordinating the ICT sector in Papua New Guinea is and has been a key outcome and I have put the Ministry on proper footing to achieve this outcome.

For the next five years between 2023 to 2027, I intend to complete the digital transformation reform by digitizing and digitalizing the public service, and by proposing a full suite of enabling legislation to institutionalize the new digital sector in Papua New Guinea.

Mr Speaker,

For the benefit of our people, please allow me once again to highlight the Ministry of ICT:

  1. The Department of Information & Communications Technology (DICT), is the policy and program coordination body;

The following Acts of Parliament give meaning to the functions of the three agencies, and they include:

Mr Speaker,

Between 2020 and 2022, we as a nation have gained much needed traction in our digital transformation journey. This is reflected through the following three key milestone policy documents:

Under this set of reforms, the ICT Sector will now be known as the ‘Digital Sector’.

The Digital Sector will no longer sit under the Infrastructure Sector.

The Digital Sector will now be a stand-alone sector with the creation of the following subsectors:

  1. Digital infrastructure;
  2. Digital Government;
  3. Digital Skills;
  4. Digital Safety and Cyber security;
  5. Digital Financial Inclusiveness; and
  6. Innovation and Entrepreneurship. 

I am now calling for the 2023 National Budget Papers and the incoming Medium Term Development Plan to reflect the Digital Sector.

Mr Speaker, on the delivery of digital transformation:

The 2022 National General Election, if anything, has again shown us three crucial deficiencies in our digital agenda:

Through you Mr Speaker, I am pleased to inform the floor of this Parliament that the Department of ICT, as required under Section 10 of the Digital Government Act, has developed the maiden Digital Government Plan 2023-2027.

This Plan now provides a sequenced approach for streamlining, planning, coordinating, developing, and implementing digital services, digital infrastructure, digital skills, and all other aspects of digital government at the national, provincial and local levels of government administration.

Mr Speaker, on the issue of critical digital infrastructure:

We recall that on Sunday 11th September 2022, the nation experienced a 7.7 magnitude earthquake.

This natural event affected the operations of the DataCo Kumul Submarine Cable Network (KSCN) Express Link between Port Moresby and Madang, and the PPC-1 cable between Madang and Sydney. Customers in Momase, Highlands and New Guinea Islands regions that are connected through Madang are and continue to be affected. The voice, internet and private link circuits have been routed via Port Moresby and prioritized over the limited satellite links.

DataCo is the custodian of much of our state owned critical digital infrastructure. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for State Enterprise and Public Investments, is carefully monitoring efforts by DataCo to get these cables up and running at full capacity again.

Our telecommunications market is built on an open market model. Learning from these experiences, my Ministry is currently reviewing the National ICT Act of 2009 to ensure competition is effectively strengthened at the wholesale level.

Mr Speaker, in the area of universal access:

This Government is continuing its focus on the completion of universal coverage across the country.

The Universal Access Policy 2022, the Universal Access Strategic Plan 2023 -2027, the National Broadband Plan 2030, and the Digital Government Plan are the Government’s tools for addressing the connectivity gap.

Honourable Members will also be aware of a new retail operator (Vodafone PNG) in the PNG mobile telco market. Our efforts to introduce competition in the retail space has effectively pushed Fourth Generation (4G) national penetration from 60 percent to 80 percent national coverage, and provided options for our people.

Within the next two years we expect competition to push connectivity towards 85 percent national coverage.

Mr Speaker, on a global and regional presence,

I attended the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF 22) and the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) 54 in Singapore from 11th to 15th September last month, with my colleague minister for Internal Security, the Honourable Peter Tsiamalili Junior.

I also had the privilege of fulfilling our government’s obligation by attending the United Nation International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference in Bucharest, Romania from 24th to 28th September.

During my attendance at both the IGF in Singapore and the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Romania, I delivered keynote addresses, attended ministerial roundtable discussions, and initiated dialogue with strategic partners.

Some of the highlights and outcomes are as follows:

  1. Ministry of ICT dialogue with APNIC and APNIC Foundation covering Internet Development and Capacity Building. Following discussions with APNIC and APNIC Foundation, APNIC and the Department of ICT has a memorandum of understanding with the Office of State Solicitor awaiting legal clearance. The MOU covers workforce upskilling in the areas of Internet development, Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), domain name services (DNS) and other related areas. 
  1. ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2022. My Ministry initiated dialogue on the sidelines of the International Telecommunication Union Plenipotentiary Conference 2022 in Bucharest, Romania with other Pacific Island States including Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, and Fiji.

During our meeting, Pacific Island nations reaffirmed concerns of ‘our collective ICT voice’ not being heard at a global level and the consensus was to hold an official round table discussion to consolidate our views and agree on how best we could strengthen our voice at a global level.

Papua New Guinea has been nominated as the Interim Secretariat for this initiative and a regional meeting and a Pacific ICT Ministers Summit has been scheduled for early 2023.

  1. The Ministry of ICT with the Ministry of Internal Security have initiated dialogue with regional leader Singapore, through its Government Technology Agency (GovTech) for capacity building in areas of digital identification (ID), citizen-centric digital services and cyber-crime.
  1. Meeting with ITU Secretary General-elect Doreen Bogdan-Martin. My Ministry initiated a meeting with ITU Secretary General-elect Doreen Bogdan-Martin, which included representatives of the United States government. During this meeting, the United States government committed to funding a cyber capacity building program to support Papua New Guinea’s digital transformation agenda. The capacity building program covers: Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Legal matters pertaining to Cryptocurrency, Digital Inclusion, and Data Privacy.

This capacity building has been welcomed by my Ministry as it aligns with our efforts to deliver on both the Digital Government Act 2022 and the Digital Government Plan 2023–2027.

Mr Speaker, on cyber issues:

My Ministry has been working closely with the PNG Ministry of Internal Security to ensure we heighten our working relationship with social media platform companies. We are in constant dialogue, especially with the Meta (formerly known as Facebook) regional Public Policy team. We want areas of concern such as misinformation, cyber safety and literacy to be moderated so that they meet PNG’s development agenda.

As part of our cyber efforts, the National Cyber Coordination Centre (N3C) is one such intervention where a single technology platform at PNG’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is being used and various national functions such as cybercrime, censorship, defense etc. can leverage and better nationally coordinate monitoring and incident response.

Our National Cyber Security Centre was established under the Digital Government Act 2022. It is a coordinating centre that provides cyber security services for the whole-of-government.

It requires additional resourcing so that we can upgrade it to a full-scale cyber security operational centre in order for it to perform all critical tasks consistent with international best practice. Similar working models are being successfully run-in other jurisdictions such as India, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

My Ministry is assessing electronic Safety (eSafety) technology options, and the necessary policy and legislative framework so that we can institutionalise and better coordinate our cyber safety and cybercrime efforts.

Mr Speaker,

The Department of ICT has now been given the mandate under the Digital Government Act 2022 to be the ICT coordinating body for the whole of government from 8 August 2022 onwards.

The Department has been restructured and re-organized, and there is the Corporate Plan 2020–2024, and a new Digital Government Wing within the Department to coordinate implementation of various digital government programs. 

Among other key functions of the Department mandated by the Digital Government Act 2022, the Department of ICT has taken on the role of providing ‘shared services’ for the whole of Government including:

Mr Speaker, in the area of broadcasting:

The National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) is experiencing its own transformational journey and this includes:

As part of the efforts to maintain our broadcasting reach, my Ministry has maintained the policy of expanding throughout the regions through a medium wave transmission roll-out as we anticipate the completion of the analog-to-digital project.

Mr Speaker,

We learnt at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Bucharest, Romania that Papua New Guinea is the first Pacific Island nation to initiate the digital transformation agenda through our Digital Transformation Policy 2020, the Digital Government Act 2022, and the draft Digital Government Plan 2023-2027.

I want to also add that the Marape-Rosso Government is the first after 12 years to introduce a comprehensive national policy to guide the usage of ICT within the public service.

Additionally, this Government is also the first in 12 years (since the National ICT Act 2009) to also introduce a new ICT legislation on the floor of Parliament.

Mr Speaker,

PNG’s digital transformation journey is at its infancy stage.

However, I am confident that we are on the right track and that we will see much needed public service delivery transformed within the medium term.

In support of the digital transformation agenda, the Ministry over the next 24 months, will consider the following reforms:

Mr Speaker,

I commend the Statement to the House.