Papua New Guinea is going to host one of the most-important economic development meetings after four-plus decades of independence, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) for the first time this year.
The core focus of Apec is to promote and facilitate free trade and investment among the member economies.
The theme for the meeting is: “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities and Embracing the Digital Future”.
By looking into what the theme states, the three immediate priorities to support the Apec objectives are improving digital connectivity and deepening regional economic integration, promoting inclusive and sustainable growth, and strengthening inclusive growth through structural reforms.
From our Government’s point of view, the hosting of Apec is expected to have a positive impact on the economy from increased activity and employment.
This will also raise the international profile of PNG and promote it as an investment acme in business and tourism destination beyond Apec meeting.
However, let’s see critically why Apec meeting seems to be leasing PNG as an avenue or venue for the benefit of region’s major players.
Whether PNG is one of the member economies of Apec or not, is not the issue.
The fundamental question is: How much will PNG benefit from this meeting?
Creating inclusive opportunities and embracing digital future implies that PNG must have the technological capacity to be a key player in the Apec game.
This is rather than becoming a spectator on her own home ground by optimistically watching 21st Century’s smart digital players like China, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand and Australia in our Asia Pacific region.
The real game pattern, containing the rules, strategies and payoffs is designed by senior players from elsewhere like the United States, Europe or highly-advanced in digital technology economies of the world and given to be played in PNG.
The only way forward to be one of the team management members in Apec is through total commitment in higher education research science and technology.
Our training institutions like University of PNG, PNG University of Technology, University of Goroka and others demand the Government review its current trends in the allocation of resources or budgets.
This is if PNG Government is genuine and serious about Apec meeting.
Look at the so-called premier university of PNG and the Pacific, UPNG, for example.
It has no on-campus free internet access and connectivity for students to do promote quality academic research all days of a semester.
This is instead of allocating only 100mb per day for students to use and access internet only in one hour in a run-down computer lab in the decades old Michael Somare Library. What a great shame.
PNG’s real challenge is quality education driven by digital technology. The Government must fix this first before singing and dancing with other Apec members on the digital playing field of the ever-changing world of globalisation and digital future.
Public Policy Management Student, UPNG