PNG facebook shutdown ‘a mockery to APEC’
30 May, 2018, 1:00 pm
PORT MORESBY,30 MAY 2018 (POST COURIER) – Shutting down Facebook in Papua New Guinea for a month could be a reckless move, or at best foolish, for a country set to be at the forefront on encouraging a digitalised APEC region.
In response to Tuesday’s report on a potential month-long shutdown on social networking site Facebook, Institute of National Affairs Director, Paul Barker, described the move as a mockery of the rhetoric being urged on by the APEC agenda.
“The APEC meeting is all about promoting the digital era to assist business, develop economies, and improve citizen welfare in member countries,” he said.
“It would be a travesty if PNG sought to close down Facebook during the APEC month, making PNG seem rather foolish, as it would be both an attack on embracing technology, undermining the information era and mechanisms for accountability, but also damaging business and welfare.
“Facebook is no longer just a platform for chatting to friends and relatives, and exchanging photos, it’s now a critical tool for information sharing and social auditing, and also a major platform for business, especially micro, small to medium enterprises (MSMEs).”
Barker said as a key focus area of PNG’s SME policy, namely to generate 500,000 SMEs over the next 12 years, the use of Facebook has been key to raise awareness and marketing goods and services as well as sharing information on jobs and educational services.
He pointed out a much more scrutinised Facebook would also strain flexibility in the business space of local SMEs in the country keeping pace with the rest of the region.
“The Pacific was the last region to roll out mobile telephony and PNG was the last in the Pacific region, to enable it to be competitive and also to start making mobile telephony and internet affordable and reliable, notably through competition and investment,” he said.
“PNG has missed out on opportunities from the internet era as a result, but is now finally catching up with new competition technologies rolling out, using cables, high and lower elevation satellites, traditional means, and now prospectively drones, all bringing down costs and raising reliability, combined with younger entrepreneurs developing and adapting new technologies for the PNG space.”
He said the country would be exposed to ridicule if it sought to switch off PNG’s major social media platform, Facebook, being used by both citizens and APEC participants.
“The government would be strongly advised to reconsider any ideas of seeking to switch off FB for a month, which would give the citizens and APEC visitors a very poor impression of governance and the directions of the government here, Barker said.
“If the concern is to free up bandwidth for the duration of the APEC Summit, then it would more sensible to temporarily boost capacity in the vicinity of NCD, notably using a weather balloon/drone based transmission or additional satellite capacity,” he said.