Editorial: Charting Papua New Guinea’s innovation journey

Editorial: Charting Papua New Guinea’s innovation journey

Chatbots composing marketing slogans. Classrooms in the Cloud.  Digital governments. Andrew Wilkins reflects on the origins of Innovation PNG 2023, which is taking place in Port Moresby on 10 November, and explains the thinking behind it.

BAI’s Andrew Wilkins

A few months ago, we were trying to think of a punchy slogan to promote Innovation PNG 2023, the conference and expo taking place at APEC Haus, Port Moresby on 10 November.

After struggling to agree on a phrase we all liked, someone suggested it would be in keeping with the spirit of the event if we sought help from artificial intelligence (AI).

Moments later, after giving a short prompt to ChatGPT, the now-ubiquitous AI-driven chatbot, we had our slogan:

‘Energise your mind.’

That worked for us on a couple of levels. It tells you something of the impact we hope the event will have on those that attend. It also reinforces what innovation is about: ideas.

Origin story

Innovation PNG had its genesis back in 2015, when we invited Pete Williams, head of what was then Deloitte Digital, to address our PNG Investment Conference in Brisbane.

We had seen Pete at another event and thought his advocacy for innovation as a driving force in business was just what PNG’s business leaders needed to experience.

‘Innovation is only going to accelerate, as new technology matures and provides the building blocks for the next breakthrough’

Pete was soon a frequent visitor to PNG and, in 2019, the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry and ourselves asked him to help us run an innovation event in Port Moresby.

Innovation PNG 2019 was the first event of its kind in PNG – an event that appealed across industry sectors and the public and private sector to focus on a single topic: innovation in all of its guises.

Combining international keynotes with local case studies, workshops and hands-on demonstrations, the event captured PNG’s latent interest in new technology and new thinking. It also acknowledged and awarded PNG’s own innovators for the first time.

What’s next?

Four years on, and many of the innovations covered by that event are commonplace: drones, artificial intelligence, the gig economy, the Internet of Things, chatbots, cloud services and so on.

Since 2019, we have also seen the continued development of a local tech sector – PNG’s own Silicon Valley – as well as better connectivity, and an ambitious Digital Government Strategy, which is already making it easier to pay tax, register a business and get visas and work permits in PNG.

But, as HP’s Megatrends Ambassador Paul Burman predicted at our 2019 event, innovation is only going to accelerate, as new technology matures and provides the building blocks for the next breakthrough.

It’s therefore well and truly time to bring Innovation PNG back, and this time we hope as an annual event.

Meeting the challenge

Leading the program this year will be some impressive international experts. Dubai-based futurist Dr Jane Thomason knows PNG well and these days spends her time helping organisations meet the challenge of emerging technologies. She will deliver a keynote speech and run an innovation workshop for delegates.

A hands-on workshop at Innovation PNG 2019

Jane will share the stage with Ted Garner, Chief Strategy Officer for Konica Minolta Australia; Craig Kirkland, the Pacific head for global payments giant Mastercard; and cybersecurity expert, Matt Dri of KPMG Australia. (Matt will also host a cybersecurity ‘deep dive’ for those that want to see some impressive cybersecurity tools.)

We’re also delighted to be bringing two global tech giants to the event virtually: Google and Meta (owner of Facebook). Google’s John Ball and Meta’s Nick McDonnell will share some insights into how they are servicing PNG, and what we can expect from them in the future.

This year’s event will also focus on more than a dozen PNG innovators, covering areas as diverse as education in the cloud, agriculture and digital ID, while the expanded Innovation PNG Awards will have their own Gala Dinner this year, on the night before the conference.

Helping to put IPNG23’s program together has certainly been an energising experience for me. It’s involved many conversations with passionate and smart individuals who are working hard on solutions to PNG’s many challenges, often for long hours, with minimal support and acknowledgement.

On 10 November, it’s time for them to step into the spotlight.

Andrew Wilkins is Publishing Director of Business Advantage International, co-host with the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Innovation PNG 2023.

Innovation PNG 2023 will take place at APEC Haus, Port Moresby on 10 November, preceded the night before by a gala dinner to announce the 2023 Innovation PNG Awards. For more information, visit www.innovationpng.com.

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