Captions: Digicel BlackBerries available in Papua New Guinea: 1. BlackBerry Bold. 2. BlackBerry Curve,. 3. BlackBerry Pearl
How Bulolo MP Sam Basil is emulating the feats of tech-savvy Barack Obama
Papua New Guinea only got into BlackBerry technology in February this year, thanks to Digicel, but one politician is already using this big-time to the max.
Bulolo MP Sam Basil is already using BlackBerry technology to take and email high resolution photographs as well as stories to the media from rural areas in his electorate.
This was epitomised during the recent conflict in Wau when he tooked and emailed photos as well as stories right from the scene to the newspapers.
This worked very much to the advantage of The National, because as there wasn’t any reporter available at the time to travel up to Wau, Mr Basil was a politician-cum-journalist.
He is arguably the first PNG politician to use BlackBerry technology in such a way and has already become the tech-savvy Digicel pin-up boy for this gadget.
I say tech-savvy because Bulolo, albeit a rural area, has over the last two years seen a communications revolution in which more people are using telephones and internet there because of their MP.
BlackBerry technology has been around the Westernised countries for some time now and was only introduced in PNG this year to cater for the needs of businessmen and professionals.
A first in the country, this means Digicel, which is still on 2.5 Generation System, is now using GPRS technology that supports e-mail, voice and text messaging, internet faxing, web browsing and other wireless information services.
GPRS refers to general packet radio service, a packet-oriented mobile data service available to users of the 2G-2.5G cellular communication system called global system for mobile communications (GSM), as well as in the 3G systems.
GPRS enhances 2G and 2.5 systems to work close to the performance of 3G networks.
With BlackBerry, the user can check Hotmail, update FaceBook, IM Friends on Skype, Google Talk, or read the news online.
BlackBerry, a wireless handheld device, is used by more than 20 million subscribers across the world.
“It is a mobile office for the dynamic professional,” was how John Mangos, Digicel PNG chief executive described their new offering.
This new product comes after the Digicel launched its mobile internet in Port Moresby.
However, the new service would be rolled out to other parts of the country in the coming months.
Subscribers with internet-capable handsets can access the web via their Digicel handset, starting in the National Capital District and Lae.
Digicel says it will roll-out BlackBerry and GPRS services across PNG in coming months.
“Blackberry will allow the users manage their business and online activities, while away from the desk, and on the road,” Mr Mangos said.
“Digicel has set another mobile telecommunications landmark for PNG, with the introduction of Blackberry.
“Now users will be able to work on the go, with their email and office functions on their Blackberry smart phone.
“Digicel believes this will add to the ease and efficiency of doing business in PNG, which would in turn boost overall economic productivity and development in this country.”
Digicel’s Blackberry roll-out comprises three handsets (pictured): the Bold (K1, 799); Curve (K1, 399); and Pearl (K1, 199) and are available to Digicel’s post-paid subscribers only.
Blackberry Silver has 20MB with monthly fee of K70; gold, 100MB (K155); and platinum, 500MB (K335).
Mr Basil, who was invited to the USA in January this year for the inauguration of Barack Obama, is a big fan of the man.
It took only a few seconds for Barack Obama to go from ordinary citizen to the most powerful man in the world - the 44th President of the United States.
Many believe that his understanding and use of social networking tools to reach voters gave him a distinct advantage over other candidates.
He is well known as a fan of technology.
He is an avid Blackberry user, the first president to air his weekly address via video websites and the first to have an official portrait taken with a digital camera.
The internet and technology are credited with helping Mr Obama win the presidency.
From social networking sites to blogs and from iPhone applications to text messaging, Mr Obama used the power of these hi-tech tools to get his message out, raise money, galvanise voters and get him elected.
Now some in the industry think it could be "pay-back time" as they looks to the country's first tech savvy President to do his bit to push technology into a new era.
"He is the first real president who seems to understand technology and the needs of the industry," said Tim O'Reilly, the man credited with coining the term 'web 2.0' and who is generally regarded as one of the industry's visionaries.
"The guy's my age," said commentator and founder of Wired magazine John Battelle.
"This guy grew up knowing what an apple is besides the thing you eat, and using e-mail and Twitter.
“He understands what Facebook is and he has young kids that are completely digital.
"I think there is a general sense that he and the people he will employ totally get the web."
"Of the people"
Silicon Valley's wish list and the President-elect's to do list are not all that different.
They have touted green energy, improved broadband connectivity and accessibility, investment in the sciences, advancing biomedical and stem cell research, creating the workforce of tomorrow, and open and transparent government and investment in research and development and education as common aims.
Mr Basil called me before leaving for Washington DC to attend the inauguration.
He wanted to set up a website of his electorate as well as one of his US-Government funded trip to attend the inauguration.
I told him that blogs were fast replacing websites as the fastest-growing means of mass communication in the world – now even replacing traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television - and that his best bet was to start up a blog.
I also told him that Mr Obama was hailed throughout his campaign and transition as a politician who makes clever use of technology to communicate his message.
After dinner, he hooked up his laptop, and I helped him to set up a blog for the Bulolo electorate and another for his trip to the USA.
He is, as far as I know, the first PNG MP to have a blog, as opposed to a website.
For matters of transparency and accesibility, Mr Basil has also listed down all his contact details, including email addresses and mobile phones, so that everyone can be in touch with him.
He has now gone a giant step forward with his BlackBerry.
Gone are the staid days of Mr Basil’s predecessors, replaced by a dynamic new means of communication reflective of the tech-savvy incumbent.