Blockchain Technology and Financial Inclusion Seminar – Closing Speech by Minister for Communication & Information, Hon. Minister Francis Maneke, MP Talasea.
- Mr Loi Bakani, Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea
- Mr. Rod Hilton, Minister Counsellor, Australian High Commission
- Mr. Paulias Korni, Secretary, Department of Communication & Information
- Dr. Gae Kauzi, Deputy Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea
- Mrs. Elizabeth Genia, Assistant Governor, Bank of Papua New Guinea
- Members of the Diplomatic Corp
- Esteemed Speakers
- Distinguished Guests
- Members of the Media
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
I am honored to join you all, in my capacity as Minister for Communication & Information, in closing this inaugural conference on Blockchain Technology and Financial Inclusion.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our nation’s development roadmap – Vision 2050 – commits us to becoming a smart country, and to aspire to improving our human development indicators.
I believe that blockchain technology offers us the potential to do both of these things, while accelerating our economic development, and helping other nations do the same.
When we talk about being a smart nation, we’re talking about innovation, and problem solving.
Coming from a remote agricultural province, I know firsthand the challenges faced by our rural majority.
- Many people don’t have identification documents, making it difficult to open bank accounts and participate in civic life.
- Financial services are difficult to access beyond our provincial capitals, making it hard to get credit and send money over long distances.
- And customary land is usually unregistered, making it difficult to develop for commercial purposes.
As you all know, these are just three of the challenges which the blockchain can be applied to.
This makes Papua New Guinea an ideal proving ground for these applications.
In fact, there is a possibility that we will leapfrog many developed nations in our use of this sort of smart technology, giving us a competitive edge as early adopters.
Papua New Guineans are very open to new ideas, and new technologies. Just look at how quickly mobile phones have spread, and become a part of everyone’s lives.
We are also natural traders, with our ancestors exchanging items of value – food, tools, betel nut – for hundreds of year.
Indeed, bitcoin is not such a difficult concept for people who used kina shells as currency. Even today, people in East New Britain respect shell money as a store of value and a means of trade.
I’d like to pay tribute to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, and Governor Bakanai, for being at the forefront of this nation’s adoption of blockchain technology, particularly in relation to financial inclusion.
Participants have heard during this conference about the bank’s R&D agenda which resulted in the successful pilot of a new blockchain-based identity solution.
The IDbox, developed with the support of the Australian Government, is an exciting innovation that uploads a person’s identity to the blockchain without mains electricity or internet connectivity.
In the future, the box could be used to enable inexpensive funds transfers outside the banking system.
So someone in a remote district could go to the store and buy rice, soap and other goods with funds sent – at virtually no cost – from a family member in Port Moresby.
It is these sorts of really transformative innovations that can change people’s lives – particularly in a nation like ours, in which 85 per cent the population is outside the banking system.
I’d also like to congratulate Governor Bakani on his launch of the PNG Digital Commerce & Cryptocurrency Association, which brings together a wide range of stakeholders to identify emerging opportunities, and advise government on regulatory issues.
As the Prime Minister reiterated just yesterday, our government is committed to strengthening the national identity system, and will be sending an envoy to India to look at using biometric data.
When we look at securing this sort of information, we must consider the advantages that blockchain technology has to offer.
Likewise, the government has committed in the Second Alotau Accord to continuing the digitisation of land assets and voluntary registration of customary land.
The blockchain offers a robust and secure technology to ensure the accuracy of land information, and the validity of transactions.
Another potential application is in the area of so-called “smart contracts”, which can enable the tracking of funds – like services improvement program funds – in a more transparent manner, without leakage along the way.
In my own ministry, I am determined to support new “e-government” solutions that will deliver greater efficiency in the way public funds are spent.
This is something that we will be looking at in our APEC discussions next year, with a view to aligning our own systems and policies with those of our regional partners.
The upgrading of our broadband infrastructure will, over time, improve the enabling environment for these sorts of reforms.
These are exciting times for Papua New Guinea, and for blockchain innovators.
I’d like to thank all of the participants in this conference for applying their skills and creative vision to addressing the development challenges of this nation, in partnership with our core institutions like the Bank of Papua New Guinea.
I’d also like to thank our friends from the Australian Government, who are working in partnership with our own Government agencies, like the Central Bank, to strengthen economic development.
We in the O’Neill Government are determined to bridge the digital divide, to ensure our people can participate in the global economy, not be excluded from it.