New mobile access to info on PNG MPs
A new mobile phone service allows Papua New Guineans to access information about their parliamentarians.
Papua New Guineans now have the opportunity to access information about their parliamentarians through mobile phones.
Greater public access to information is being provided about PNG's parliament, its members and services through parliament's new website.
The new access is the result of an initiative between the Speaker of Parliament, Theo Zurenuoc, and the European Union, executed by Transparency International PNG.
A Transparency International [TI] board member, Emmanual Narokobi, spoke to Johnny Blades about the new service.
EMMANUEL NAROKOBI: If you text in the name to a number there then it sends back a brief message of the name of the MP, the ministry they may be holding, the committees they're in and some contact details.
JOHNNY BLADES: Is there something also about the district services improvement funds as well, is there going to be some way to find out how they're being spent by MPs?
EN: Yes exactly, and that's the second phase that we're working on. At this point it's a technical issue in terms of being able to set up arrangements between the government bodies so that we can get that information consistently to be able to upload it on the system. There's also a slot there for talking about district funds, where it'll be placed for people to access it and have a look at it so that'll be one thing to get up there soon.
JB: Does TI PNG expect this to be quite widely used?
EN: Definitely. We haven't launched it yet. Just when we were doing trials for it without any advertising, within a week or two we had about a hundred people subscribe to the newsletter and visit the page. So I think it'll be quite popular and I think Papua New Guineans are in to their politics, they like to talk about it, get involved in it and they want to know what their members of parliament are doing so we do expect that it'll be very popular.
JB: Do you have any figures currently for how many people in PNG have access to internet and mobile services?
EN: General figures are that we have about three million mobile users within PNG and that's in a population of about 7.3 million. With Facebook, users are nearly 300,000 PNG accounts so those are the sort of rough figures or numbers that are out there in terms of how many people could be accessing this information.
JB: And are the politicians, are the MPs, apart from the speaker, are they all sort of keen on this? Are they keen to have information about them provided to the public in this way?
EN: It's been sort of up and down. Like when we first started last year, it was met with a lot of skepticism, especially with Transparency International being a part of it as well, they were like oh, what are they trying to do, are they trying to put us out there and embarrass us? But between last year and this year, we've seen quite a few members of parliament become excited about it and we've been explaining to them, this is just a way for you to communicate with your electorate and let people know what you're doing instead of people guessing and assuming things.
JB: Presumably, the messages will go through a moderator?
EN: Yes, so there's a committee set up to look after the information that goes on to the website and the text messages. So everything's vetted through there before it gets published.
The website is http://www.parliament.gov.pg
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