There has been a recent push for innovation in PNG. Mostly this has focused on getting Startups to scale. This November there was a Innovation Convention in PNG’s capital Port Moresby and in December there will be a Start Up convention – called StartupPNG.
I applaud all these ongoing conferences and conventions to get startup businesses going. I have seen that more than 90% of these meetings has been trying to uncover startups that are using ICT and other technological innovation to kick start businesses in PNG. A lot of the media coverage has been on mobile phone app development.
However, what I see not being talked about or addressed is that technological innovators depend on innovative thinking. I think the focus must be on changing mindsets. A shift away from doing what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘routine’ way of doing business in PNG and try new ideas of doing business. Regardless of whether it is a mobile phone app development or a farmer trying to get his/her produce to sell in the larger cities and towns in PNG. The innovative thinking and problem solving involved in overcoming or getting around a challenge to push their business ideas forward is the key.
Another factor that also needs addressing in PNG and perhaps in the Pacific generally is promoting science and technology among young people. Computer science, engineering and coding for software development or mobile phone app developing needs to be promoted and taught in schools, colleges and universities in ways that has never been taught before. Innovation also must involve how science and engineering is presented to young people. This will result in increased number of people with the skills as well as the innovative mindset that is needed for startups to flourish. Without these prerequisites, the push for innovation and encouraging startups in PNG or the Pacific will lag behind Africa or Asia. We need to catch up.