The Government’s decision to leverage its balance sheet to support Telstra’s procurement of Digicel is cautiously welcomed by the organisation, which has a significant presence in the Pacific.
Deputy CEO and Director of International Programs, Mat Tinkler warned it would be a missed opportunity not to utilise the network to address inequality in the region.
“Australia has done the right thing by supporting the acquisition of the largest telecommunications network in the Pacific,” said Mr Tinkler.
“The opportunity now is to ensure Telstra’s acquisition of the Digicel network is used for purpose, as well as profit to shareholders.”
“There is a deep digital divide in the Pacific which inhibits growth and security. Maintaining a strong and open telecommunications network is vital to the prosperity of countries like Papua New Guinea.”
Internet affordability and coverage throughout the Pacific act as barriers to effective online participation with economic as well as social consequences, heightened in the context of COVID-19.
“Poor or non-existent access to online learning, markets and services in the Pacific are reflective of entrenched social disadvantage,” said Mr Tinkler.
“Australia is the largest development partner to PNG, providing around $500 million annually in development assistance. This transaction provides a huge opportunity to align the commercial and strategic outcomes of Telstra and the Australian Government with the development outcomes of PNG by connecting children and families to health, education and livelihoods opportunities.
“We need as much emphasis on development outcomes as geopolitical or strategic ones.”
“Let’s connect schools, train teachers, enhance literacy and get cash to families in an emergency through this significant investment.”
“Telstra is perfectly positioned to make this a reality for vulnerable communities throughout the region.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberley Gardiner on 0437 435 777 or firstname.lastname@example.org