Pacific people with technology

Leaders in the education and private sector across the Pacific say developing technologies can help empower communities around the region.

The Pacific Wave conference held in Auckland last Friday brought insight into how Pacific Islanders’ livelihoods and wellbeing can be further improved through technology.

Speakers at the conference discussed technologies such as smartphones, the use of which have exploded around the Pacific in recent years, changing community life.

According to Roannie Ng Shiu, a researcher for the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia programme at the Australian National University, more young people are becoming engaged in elections in Melanesia due to mobile phones and social media.

Ms Ng Shiu said young people were using social media to push for change in their communities.

“From the studies that USB researchers have done – Glen Finau and the boys there – they’ve shown that it’s actually helped increase political participation,” she said.

“Like, they feel like they have a voice. And it’s provided them with a forum and platform to voice their opinions and to ask really hard questions that they might not be able to ask in newspapers and through traditional print media.”

She recalled how mobile phones were used to keep election candidates accountable.

“At the last PNG elections there were a couple of rallies were candidates stood up and said “We are going to do this, we’re going to do that…” And so, people actually recorded the election promises,” she said.

“And so, eventually they got elected in and actually didn’t fulfill those promises. So they went back to court and people said ‘well, they didn’t do this’ and so another candidate ended up winning.”

An academic, Michelle Bloomfield, said that while connectivity remained a challenge for much of the region, she hoped to see software developed that can work alone on devices without wifi.

Ms Bloomfield said there were resources and funding available to help develop more technology but a lack of education and confidence in communities was a big hindrance.

“The fundamental reason why I’m in technology is because I didn’t have anything and I learnt to pull apart something that was broken and learnt how it worked,” she explained.  READ MORE