Endless opportunities – PNG Business Network Dialogue on digital innovations in agriculture

It began with a message: “This is your time to unleash your own story within the Papua New Guinean story, a nation that has gone from the Stone Age to the Digital Age within a generation. The growth is remarkable, and with it the opportunities are endless.”

Over three days, 25 Australian and Papua New Guinean current and emerging leaders gathered together to discuss digital innovation in agriculture. With backgrounds in government, agriculture not-for-profit, technology and innovative SMEs, the participants brought a high level of experience and willingness to ensure a productive outcome to the Dialogue, which was facilitated and supported by ICDP through the Pacific Connect initiative.

The discussions were facilitated by Andrew Carriline, ICDP Ambassador and Non-Executive Director of Kina Securities, and John Pora, Director of NIUGENE PNG Limited.

The digital agriculture innovation Dialogue began with an informative and inspiring message delivered by John Pora. With the potential of digital technologies transforming agricultural industries in Australia already well documented, John and Andrew led a brainstorming session which identified key challenges and opportunities for innovative digital projects in PNG agriculture. The participants immediately recognised numerous key challenges facing producers, including a domestic market heavily skewed towards imports, a lack of market access for both suppliers and customers, and critical farming data that is not readily available for interpretation.

After a busy first day, Dialogue participants joined  the country’s business and government leaders  for a networking dinner. Throughout the evening, Australian participants were able to forge meaningful connections with their PNG counterparts as stories and business ideas were shared.

Day two saw participants actively collaborate on project ideas developed the day before, with participants split up into three groups to reflect their areas of expertise and interest.

One project focused on greater access and improved monitoring of farming data. Participants learned about Australian farmers’ agricultural data practices and discussed ways disruptive technologies could help solve current problems facing PNG farmers.

Another group came up with the proposal of a platform that would connect market places to the customers. Developed by a young female entrepreneur from Port Moresby, the platform seeks to remedy the local farmers’ lack of market access, while also allowing more efficient stock ordering for supermarkets.

Finally, the third group discussed a platform that would bring together cattle auctions, information and buyer requests into a single app. This will rapidly increase efficiencies and allow farmers to co-develop best practices and compete on an international scale.

Dialogue participants presented their ideas to the facilitators and received feedback on their feasiblity.

To round out an action-packed and productive Dialogue, invitees from the wider Pacific Connect Community attended a networking event on the final night. It was attended by last year’s Pacific Connect Business Network Dialogue participants from PNG, allowing the previous years’ emerging leaders to pass down insights gained from their projects and grow their personal networks.

The Pacific Connect 2019 Business Network Dialogue concluded with a thought-provoking and emotional tour of ‘a Bit na Ta’, an exhibition using Pacific song, dance, cultural and traditional artefacts to tell the story of the colonisation of Tolai people. An emotive and touching end to the event saw a participant from the Tolai region explain many of the artefacts present at the exhibition to Dialogue attendees. Featuring a film produced by David Bridie, the exhibition is currently being showcased at the National Museum & Art Gallery in Port Moresby.

From a personal perspective, having the privilege to attend this Dialogue and meet its participants allowed me to see the Pacific, and PNG in particular, in a new light. PNG’s rich culture and history is rarely taught in Australia, so to be able to hear firsthand from Dialogue participants about the culture, the people and current societal contexts of the country has me wishing for a quick return. I learnt an incredible amount about the potential of digital innovation in PNG and was able to develop my network far beyond where I thought it could possibly go.

ICDP wishes to thank the Dialogue participants for their contributions to the event and post-Dialogue activities and looks forward to their ongoing involvement as part of the Pacific Connect Community and on proposed and future projects.

Benjamin Blackshaw

Benjamin Blackshaw


Benjamin maintains ICDP’s active social media and website presence along with its community engagement platform. Recently graduated from UTS with a Bachelor of Global Studies and Diploma in Languages (Mandarin), Benjamin has a keen interest in Australia’s engagement with its Pacific neighbours and global issues such as climate change and migration.