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Dr Jonathan Ritchie from Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Research Institute believes that mobile phones are playing a huge role in changing Papua New Guinea, and in many ways for the better.
Dr Ritchie, who has been a holder of an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellowship, was himself born in New Guinea and returns to his birthplace on a regular basis as part of his research.
He says mobile phones are playing a vital role in communications, even in areas that until recently had little exposure to the modern technological world.
“While the cost of the mobile phone is still not cheap for many Papua New Guineans, it is relative inexpensive compared to other ways of communicating,” Dr Ritchie said.
“There is now a real opportunity for the people of PNG to begin thinking of themselves as one nation, not disparate groups with many identities and more than 700 languages.
“Family members who might have moved to one of the larger cities for work are now able to communicate with their loved ones, often for the first time in many years, and to share experiences.
“As we all know the challenging terrain in PNG has meant communications have been very difficult to establish.
“The mobile phone is getting around that, almost to the extent where we have the cliché of the warrior in all his feathers and finery talking on a mobile phone.”
Dr Ritchie said the mobile phone might also prove useful in combating some of the serious health issues affecting PNG, including the fight against AIDS.
In March 2010 Dr Ritchie's research entered a new phase when he began work on the ground-breaking project of researching and writing about the life and times of one of Papua New Guinea’s independence leaders, the late Sir Ebia Olewale, who was a founding member of the Pangu Pati, and senior Minister in the first Papua New Guinean independence government.
Dr Ritchie is working closely with two of PNG’s most respected historians, August Kituai and Anne Dickson-Waiko, who will be spending time as Visiting Fellows at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute later in 2010.
This project is being funded by the PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd, and represents a major achievement in partnership with this important external organisation.