Seven years ago, I was doing a presentation at Divine Word University centered around the transformational power of social media and mobile phone technology particularly in local communities.
While the idea was exciting to some, many among the audience viewed the new methods of news and information delivery with skepticism. At least one questioned how mobile phones would be charged in remote areas where there was no power.
My response was that in the future, these minor obstacles would be resolved and social media would outpace mainstream media in news and information delivery as well as in public confidence.
Not many appreciated the growth of the “new media.”
Back then, Facebook was relatively new in Papua New Guinea and the integration of mainstream and social media tools were in their infancy. In fact, it was around the same period, that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the biggest broadcaster in the region, began incorporating social media as one of the modes of news delivery.
Working among a small group of individuals, we experimented with new methods of information delivery into various communities around the country. Compared to the present day, the methods were cumbersome and limited. To add to all the challenges, the internet connections were slow and the cellphone technology expensive.
Uploading a 1.5 megabyte video on Facebook using a mobile phone was impossible. Uploading the same video on to YouTube using an internet connection on a desktop was also very slow. Sometimes, it would take all night to upload.
Around the same period, Whatsapp was launched in the US. But it was going to be a few more years before, the app came into the mainstream in Papua New Guinea. Many skeptics doubted the use of mobile phones in mainstream journalism. Yet, mobile phones and Facebook played an important role in bringing the pictures of the 2011 Airlines PNG crash in Madang to the world’s media.
On the crash site on the Rai Coast of Madang, the poor internet connection on the, now ancient, blackberry phone, three low resolution images not worthy of international publication were sent to the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the ABC. They were immediately published with much gratitude sent to me.
Almost a decade since that presentation at Divine Word University, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media tools have become an integral part of mainstream news delivery.
Solar power chargers, power banks and solar powered lights have flooded the market bringing cheap electricity into rural areas.
To a new audience, I say the mainstream media in Papua New Guinea will be transformed further into the future with live broadcasts online from mobile phones, eliminating the need for expensive, traditional satellite uplinks. There will be an increase in the demand for citizen generated video news content.
This will challenge how Papua New Guineans view traditional forms of journalism. This transformation will also require a shift in journalism and media training in Divine Word University and the University of Papua New Guinea.
The two universities will require an increased level of industry input in training and curriculum development. Students will need to be better skilled at handling the transformation in technology whilst maintaining a strong foundation in the fundamentals of journalism and the media.