Fast-tracking mobile and solar solutions in Papua New Guinea
Digicel Asia-Pacific, a digital communications leader in developing markets, joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to make digital communications, solar power and data services more available in Papua New Guinea's most remote areas. The company aims to extend 3G coverage to more than 80 percent of the population by 2020 and expand mobile penetration to 60 percent of the addressable population. Working with both local and international partners, Digicel has committed to expand the use of solar power solutions for households across PNG.
The company has already invested over US$800 million in Papua New Guinea, providing world-class telecommunications and IT services across the country. Digicel's inclusive business model aims to significantly narrow the 'digital divide' between Papua New Guinea's urban and rural areas, fostering state-of-the-art communications between the country's remote regions and the rest of the world.
The island country's rough terrain and lack of infrastructure effectively isolate the 85 percent of its people who live outside cities. Following many years of inefficient coverage, Papua New Guinea's Government reformed the IT sector in 2005, opening the door for private entrepreneurship.
Since its founding in 2007, Digicel has become the country's largest mobile operator by increasing mobile penetration among rural areas that previously lacked basic telecom infrastructure, and offering affordable products and services to low-income communities.
However, Digicel recognizes that its expanding network has limited value without access to affordable power for recharging communication devices. To date, approximately only 10 percent of the total households in Papua New Guinea are connected to the national electricity grid. Access to solar power would not only facilitate greater connectivity: it will enable millions of people to cost-effectively and efficiently cook and light their homes, allow children to study after dark and spur economic development. Solar power also reduces indoor air pollution and mitigates the risk of fires started by kerosene lamps, candles and wood burning. Furthermore, it will allow more people to keep their devices charged, giving them greater access to communication and information via voice, SMS and data services.
As part of its BCtA commitment, the company has extended an invitation for investors, government and development partners in the region to partner in implementing its inclusive business model.