The geographical dispersion of the population and the education system of Papua New Guinea (PNG) combine to produce a unique blend of problems and potential solutions for educational product delivery nationally. At least 85% of Grade 10 students miss the chance of continuing their education into matriculation and approximately 40% of Grade 12 graduands continue on into University study. TAFE type study is very poorly developed. In total, this adds up to considerable pent up demand for education and as wealth within the country becomes more available, so are the demands for access. The existing system is inadequate to cope and even as National High Schools facilities are increased to eleven (Sector Study for Education 1990) there will be only a slight diminishing in demand.
An obvious solution is to provide a national technology network that its reliable, cost effective, ubiquitous, and as problem proof as possible in a tropical environment and which is community based. The two primary systems available in PNG are the terrestrial network and the satellite services through PALAPA and INTELSAT which are being developed, maintained and operated by the Post and Telekom Corporation (PTC). A research and educational service, PEACESAT, is in use on the GOES 3 satellite. Each of these and other options shall be analysed looking at distribution, operation, service availability, potential for education, problems (local and international) and benefits. Finally a hypothetical working architecture will be proposed and discussed that may alleviate much of the unmet demand for education nationally.
While much of the developed world have grasped access to information highways and modern technologies that provide the vehicles for information movement, there are still many countries that, for many reasons are deprived.
Because they lack the human and financial resources to develop and maintain such highways the deficit in knowledge and access to education, information and technology are cumulative and consequently where there was once economic disparity between the haves and have nots there is now also education and information disparity. The development of such a situation is surely not in the best interests of the 'New World Order'.
Australia's near northern neighbour, Papua New Guinea, is one such country that is striving to emerge from the tyranny of deficit in order that it might play a larger role in regional and international affairs. However, the country lacks access to the international education and information highways and has only recently developed a national telecommunications infrastructure that may provide ubiquitous access once installed.
"Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a population of 4 million people of which 85 percent live in the rural areas. It has a land mass of 462,800 square kilometres and this gives a population density of 8 persons per square kilometre. The annual population growth rate is 2.3 percent.
The mainland is surrounded by large offshore islands of New Britain, Bougainville, New Ireland and Manus and over 600 smaller ones. Mountain terrains with peaks over 4,000 metres run the length of the mainland from the east to the west. Other places are flat with swamp land covering most of the plains.
PNG gained independence from Australia in 1975. It is a parliamentary democracy with a single legislature - the National Parliament - through elected members. Elections are held every 5 years for the 109 seats: 20 regional and 89 open electorates. The Queen is the Head of State and is represented by a Governor General.
PNG has more languages (over 800) than any other country in the world with the possible exception of India. The official language is English with Pidgin and Hiri Motu being used widely as lingua franca to facilitate communication among people of diverse linguistic backgrounds".
Further, "Media outlets include the National Broadcasting Commission, EMTV, two national daily's; the PNG Post Courier and the National. There are also the weekly publications of Times of PNG and the Wantok as well as other smaller publications.
Advances in broadcast technology such as satellites allowed television programs to be viewed in this country long before a TV network was established. In some places cable TV networks were installed to provide reception and distribution of off air satellite programs. Audio visual services are also becoming increasingly popular with the trends in customer markets.
PNG has one of the most advanced telecommunications networks in the (developing) world. All centres in the country are linked by either terrestrial or satellite microwave radio links with routing and switching of calls made at telephone exchanges in major centres. Calls can be made to almost anywhere in the world.
Because communications is the thread which binds a community and indeed a nation together, lack of information and communication have been identified as the biggest problem of hindrance in meaningful development. In mid 1992, the Fifth National Parliament established a Department of Information and Communication to ensure that the majority of Papua New Guineans benefit from Government programs and services through an improved information and communication system in tune with the spirit of the National Constitution".
From this profile it can be seen that PNG has some definite advantages both in infrastructure development and natural resources. However, population distribution and geography create huge barriers to information and education delivery.
A scan of the figures also reveals some interesting features. The dropout rate in Grade 6 and Grade 10 is very high. Up to Grade 6 level students attend local community based schools. Family, tribal culture, and the fact that students would have to move from the village environment to Provincial High Schools (and the school fees) often mitigate against further education. At the Grade 10 level the reasons are different. National High Schools are residential and there are only a limited number of places available. Competition is fierce and often very academically gifted students miss out for other than academic reasons.
Finally, if one were to collate the figures for the differences between Grade 10 enrolments and Grade 11 enrolments where there is a consistent disparity of around 10,000 students every year, it is not difficult to estimate the cumulative demands for senior school level studies. Further, this can be extrapolated to technical and tertiary studies which is restricted to a privileged minority of students (even with the aid programs available).
Domestic services are provided through the major terrestrial microwave radio bearers linking up the eight primary telephone exchanges in major centres; Boroko (Port Moresby), Lae, Madang, Wewak, Rabaul, Arawa, Goroka and Mt Hagen. Most of the telecommunications infrastructure is analogue with an intensive program under way to install digital bearers before the turn of the century. Rural subscribers, who form the basis of thin route traffic, are served by VHF and HF radios. The Policy document has called for the development of the rural telecommunications infrastructure by direct funding through 50% withholding of total PTC dividend payable to Government every financial year. Due to the topology of PNG and the land compensation problems, satellites will play an important role in the provision of telecommunications services. Transponders of two Palapa (Indonesian) satellites are leased by PTC for the PNG Domestic Satellite (Domsat) network, carrying voice and data traffic between local and primary telephone exchanges. Some of the transponder bandwidth is preserved for redundancy purposes should major terrestrial bearers tail. Eight of the 13 planned DOMSAT sites have been commissioned and are operational. These sites are selected for their strategic locations in the country. It is anticipated that at the end of the current leasing term with Palapa, Domsat network services will be transferred to an Intelsat satellite in the Pacific Ocean Region (POR). Additionally, broadcast television programs for viewers nationwide are also relayed.
International services are catered for by use of leased satellite transponders and APNG - a cable link between Australia and PNG. Two international earth stations are installed in Port Moresby to cater for transmission and reception of international traffic (voice and data). These are an Intelsat A type earth station owned and operated by PTC and an Optus earth station owned by Optus Communications of Australia. These operate to Intelsat and Optus satellites respectively. The Optus link carries originating and terminating Australian traffic into and out of PNG whilst the traffic to and from countries outside the Intelsat satellite footprints are channelled through the APNG cable for switching in Australia. Countries within the Intelsat footprint have their traffic switched through the Intelsat satellite in the POR. There are no international television relays into or out of PNG using the network although there are facilities available.
Figure 1: GOES-3 satellite footprint
In PNG there are two PEACESAT sites: the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech) campus in Lae and the Institute of Fish and Marine Resources in Port Moresby. Current communications between the Lae terminal and other Pacific countries involves only voice communications at this time with data communications designated for implementation in the not too distant future. Also it is anticipated that. for the short term ( until mid 1990s) and once agreement is reached with PEACESAT authorities in Honolulu, the link could be used for education purposes with possible sites in provincial centres of PNG's 20 provinces. This could be enhanced further with redistribution of the satellite signals through VHF or UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radio links from the ground stations into single or multiple remote sites.
Figure 2: ETS-V Satellite footprint
The satellite provides 64 kilobits per second (64 kbps) video conferencing, 9.6-64 kbps data transmission and computer communication and 4.8-16 kbps digital voice code and decode technique. 3 meter earth stations cost about $US15,000 each to design and make from standard 'off the shelf' components using volunteer labour . Experiments were conducted in cooperation with PEACESAT using ETS-V  in 1990.
As a further extension of the experiment, stations were installed in countries of Asia, the Pacific Rim and Pacific. One of the stations has been installed at Unitech campus, in Lae, as part of the "PARTNERS project" and was used for the International Space Year (ISY) activities in 1992.
With the footprint and the low cost involved in the ETS-V project, it could be a future vehicle for delivery of education. The findings of the experiment would most certainly be of interest to the countries of the Pacific.
Leased data circuits cater for high volume data communications users for point to point or point to multipoint data transfer. There is data security and high reliability. Most of the circuits at present are analogue operating at 9.6 kbps.
Dial up services provide non-dedicated data transfer capabilities to customers over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) in accordance with a circuit switched data network. Due to cost, reliability and security reasons applications of this service are slowly being replaced by packet switch services.
Packet switched services in PNG are called PANGPAC which operates as a subset off the OTC MIDAS packet switched network. Initially the network covered only Port Moresby but due to pressure from politicians and the introduction of Lotto in PNG the network has now expanded to Lae and Mt Hagen which are switches in the network. The Lae switch supports feeds to Rabaul and Goroka each of which have a multi protocol X25 PAD which supports a maximum of 64 ports. Port Moresby is the international gateway to Australia. The transmission rates to Goroka is 19.2 kbps and Rabaul 4.8 kbps. X.25, X.28 and X.32 services are available.
The technical hub will be located at the PNG University of Technology in Lae, academic hub at the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands and an archival hub at the National Library in Port Moresby. These hubs will be connected by leased lines which will be provided by PTC as part of their contribution to the project. Remote sites will dial up to down load their required material using toll tree techniques ie the 008 service.
Also as we have outlined there is a considerable education starved client base at all levels of the education system within the country. Access to them has, until now, provided the biggest obstacle. By applying existing PNG networked technologies and emerging ones there is increasing hope that the level of demand will diminish considerably over the next five years. If this occurs then LainimNet can be adjudged a success. But then the real problem will emerge. Have we produced, a larger group of educated 'rascals' or will the PNG government look seriously at the unemployment problem and develop some job creation strategies to maximise the benefits to the country?
|Authors: Dr F Geoffrey Jones, Head, Dept of Open and Distance Learning.|
Mr Noel Mobiha, Senior Technical Instructor, Dept of Electrical and Communication Engineering.
Dr Geoffrey Bryant, Professor and Head, Dept of Electrical and Communication Engineering, Papua New Guinea University of Technology
Please cite as: Jones, G., Mobiha, N. and Bryant, G. (1994). Papua New Guinea LainimNet: Fact or fiction. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 128-133. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech94/ak/jones.html