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Saturday, 30 May 2015

Opening of O3B Installation 29 May 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today, the official opening of our O3B marks the beginning of a new start for the Papua New Guinea University of Technology at its 50th birthday. (O3B stand for the Other 3 Billion people in the world, who do not yet have access to fast broadband internet).

Finally, we will have the most reliable and fastest internet in the country delivered through satellite, and distributed through Wifi across our whole campus. This fits our vision for the Papua New Guinea University of Technology to be an innovative, entrepreneurial and student-centred University.

For this vision for the University to come true, for this to happen, we must focus all our energy and activities exclusively on our general and specific missions. Companies focus on profits, non-profits focus on mission.

What is our mission? We provide teaching, research and community outreach of the highest quality. It is not sufficient that the Vice Chancellor proclaim this. We allow third parties to come in, verify or accredit our programs, and our operations. We do this because as a University, we strive to produce highly employable graduates, life-long learners, innovative and entrepreneurial problem solvers, ready for the next 50 years.

What makes us unique as universities in general is that research and teaching are inseparable. Our teaching is informed by the latest knowledge and research. This is how we ensure our research has impact, and our teaching is relevant. I am proud therefore that with support of the State of PNG, and the European Union we are running the largest in-house Post Graduate Program in the country, producing about half the research publications in the nation.

Our founders gave us a specific mission. As a University of Technology we must "stimulate the critical evaluation of science and technology for PNG and the South Pacific". What makes us unique as a University of Technology is that we are firmly committed to apply the latest scientific and technological advances to address problems in our societies. If we don't solve relevant problems, we are part of the problem.

For this to happen, UNITECH needed a new type of leadership, equipped with know-how and experience working in modern universities, with understanding about what drives dominating trends in higher education world wide, ready to embrace change, willing to engage with everybody, capable of solving problems in a fair and even handed manner, equipped with the necessary skills and know-how, and well-connected and positioned to take advantage of international grant programs such as the European Commission's Horizon 2020 (RISE) and Life-Long Learning (Erasmus Mundus). Today demonstrates what similar leadership can achieve.

For all this to happen, we need to be accountable how we use our resources and we need sufficient resources. We must use our resources efficiently. We must be economical and not waste water, power, stationary, and other resources.
In addition, we must be accountable and trustworthy in the eyes of all our stakeholders. We are catching up with our external audits. We have established an external audit committee and we hope for 2014, for the first time, to achieve an unqualified opinion from the auditor general.

We understand that we have to be accountable in order to deserve the investments of our principal stakeholder the state of Papua New Guinea. Our “I make UNITECH fly” campaign has awakened a new mind set in which not putting in the full 73,5 hours per fortnight and using university property as your own is not acceptable.

Through this campaign, we have established our core values: integrity and accountability, professionalism, excellence, innovation and initiative, pride and passion. We stand up for our values, and don't allow others to violate them, because this diminishes the reputation of this great institution. These values are what drives the behaviour of every graduate, and every member of the UNITECH community.

To put it simply, as I explained to our staff recently, if you misuse resources or steal university property, you will get in trouble. You should not be surprised the government is not investing in improving our campus or your house, or giving you a pay rise.

Today, we can see all around us how the mindset is changing, and we are producing improvements on our campus creating a better living and working environment, and a better learning experience for our students. We are driving this mindset and behaviour throughout the organization, and are making tremendous advances, of which the building of this O3B installation is just an example.

We have made our case for more funding with the government, and implore the government to stop the decrease in our funding. This government has established our costs per student per year are around K30.000. With 3.000 students our budget should therefore be around K90M, which is what we are going to submit for 2016. Unfortunately, now it is nowhere near this amount. We are only receiving K47M, 5% less than 3 years ago in 2012. You all noticed prices have gone up substantially in 3 years. No wonder we are in trouble financially.

We are not just another government department, but we are a complex inernational organization with a universal mission. If you cut a government's department funding wisely you may increase efficiency and your political power, if you cut a university's funding you get angry students, brain drain, staff strikes and you decrease or lose your political power. Regrettably, in the history of our university this has happened all too often.

We are grateful the state over the last 6 years has made some small investments in our infrastructure. If we have time today we will show off our research farm, our biotechnology laboratory, and of course our O3B installation. However, it is not nearly enough.

Our Universities need increased investment in our decrepit 50 year old infrastructure, and adequate funding for our operations. Meanwhile we will restructure and reorganize in order to become more efficient, generate more revenue from our own assets and our public-private or public-public partnerships, and improve our accountability.

As a matter of urgency, we must address our general needs and review our salaries. Currently, we are unable to attract qualified Faculty, currently we have around 125 vacancies of a total of about 300 established positions (that is 40%).

We are unable to retain staff while our campus lacks services and our salaries don't allow families to save and prepare for a better future. We need more support staff for student services – the establishment for student services was designed for 1,000 student -, and the cost of running our infrastructure.

When we came here in 2012 the campus was run down, staff lacked basic services, and the student learning experience was poor due to lack of basic resources. Since then our staff has helped repair all roads, build 23 new houses for Faculty, re-opened the Kofi Haus or staff restaurant, initiated market runs for staff twice a week, opened 2 ATMs, opened the bio-technology laboratory, made the farm more productive, and refurbished our clinic, among other things.

We cut unnecessary spending by over K7M per year by bringing all students back on campus, and terminating unnecessary contracts with security firm, air conditioning maintenance, and costly intermediaries such as internet service providers, car rental companies, printer maintenance firms, and stationary.

This year, we started making use of our tax exempt status as an educational institutions, and imported laptops directly from Dell in Singapore for all first year students through PNG RNET, the Papua New Guinea Research Network. Our Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr. Ora Renagi, and Pro Vice Chancellor Dr. Kaul Gena played a leading role in most of these achievements.

Coupled with the legacy of poor management over the past decades, there is a legacy of structural and continuous underfunding. This is the double burden we are carrying. We must point out with sadness, for example, that the state has not build a single academic or service building since independence (with exception of the 100 men dorm).

If Papua New Guinea plans to become the first country in the world not to have state universities, it is on the right path. If not, then we must invest in infrastructure, salaries and research, to innovate and develop new product and services that will bring the country closer to its vision for 2050.

Conversely, the European Union has made strategically important investments on our campus and built 1 research building, 1 IT building, and 2 dorms for postgraduate students, all strategic investments at the time, and now immensely useful for our expanding postgraduate programs and dependency on internet. Similarly, Australia invested in our Forestry building, which is by far the best designed and most beautiful academic building on our campus.

If we want to address the needs of the country and prepare for a better future, we will need to grow student numbers, and investments on our campus need to be made. More than other universities UNITECH deserves special recognition for its need to run laboratories for its technical and scientific programs.

Much of the progress we made until today can not be seen readily. We introduced the common credit system, we formulated a graduate profile for the University and for each program, we made our curricula outcome based focusing not only on knowledge but also skills and competences, we improved student evaluations of Faculty, we introduced external examiners, and we have a common engineering curriculum. For these achievements, the leadership of our Pro Vice Chancellor Dr. Augustine Moshi must be acknowledged.

We are committed to obtain conditional accreditation for our engineering programs in 3 years with the help of the Institution of Engineering PNG and Engineers Australia. We trust the K50M set aside for accreditation will be disbursed eventually.

Through our O3B installation we will have the fastest and most reliable internet in the country. This will give us the capability, together with our joint venture partners, to develop and deliver blended learning programs throughout the country with our soon to be established satellite campuses.

Anybody in Papua New Guinea eager to learn about 21st century of technology or be part of a green and digital economy, will come to the PNG UoT, and it is only right this be so. Anybody wanting to deliver online educational programs will come to the PNG UoT, because we have the fastest internet in the country, and are the only university having the capability to support video communication reliably.

But there is more. We are the first university in the world to have broadband internet through satellite. This is a truly remarkable achievement.

Credit where credit is due: I want to congratulate the whole ICTS and Surveying Departments, Building and Grounds, Maintenance, Project Office and Transportation office for working so hard to achieve this today, in particular the project team leaders Dorothy Kauga, William Pikire and Ali Kapipi, and also the leadership of our Pro Vice Chancellor Administration Dr. Kaul Gena, and our patient acting Bursar Bapa Bomoteng.

We also want to thank our partners in laying the basis for the diversification of the economy based on ICT, Digicel and Telikom. We have developed a clear understanding with them that together we are more than the sum of the parts. We are looking forward to establishing a ICT business incubator on our campus.

Last but not least, we want to thanks this government represented by Minister DHERST Malakai Tabar. This government allowed us to investment state funds in this wonderful installation.

Our O3B installation which we are opening today shows how the state, industry and the universities (sometimes called the triple helix) by working together can achieve great things for bringing closer our vision 2050 for the country, a Papua New Guinea that is no longer at the bottom of the international development ladder but standing firmly in the middle, and on the way to the top.

But resources and physical infrastructure our not enough. For our vision to become reality, we needed a functional council and effective management team. The remarkable and steady leadership of our Chancellor Sir Nagora Bogan who was appointed in December 2012 is gratefully acknowledged.

After a crisis which lasted 3 years, and regrettably required 3 student boycotts, we managed to remove individuals with narrow personal interests, and partial political agendas from our Council and management.

With Sir Nagora, we have a Chancellor now who leads the Council, and a Vice Chancellor who leads the management team. Council has chosen for stability and our management team has been granted at term until December 2019.

<<On a personal note, I want to thank the Prime Minister to allow me last year to come back resume my unfinished job. Today he sent his apologies, but I hope he can attend our Open Day on 12 June.

In 2011, I came to PNG with the purpose of serving the students on the promise of transformational leadership. I quickly understood UNITECH students were eager to learn, and the university was in need of leadership and know-how about how to transform it into a 21st century university. The students have never disappointed me.

The transformation of the university took a bit more time and effort than I initially predicted. In my plan for the first 100 days, I included "solve the internet problem" and I planned 3 weeks for that. It took 3 years. Our Faculty however have lived up to all expectations, and their interest in pursuing higher degrees in-house or elsewhere has been moving. They want to put in the work, and advance their knowledge.>>

In these 3 years, I feel honoured to have met so many wonderful Papua New Guineans, who made our vision for the university their own, and ran with it and took off. Every day we can see how they are making the changes happen, and are getting things done. Everyday I see our staff working hard to "make UNITECH Fly".

During these years, I learned that when Papua New Guineans stop the fruitless bickering, and resisting inevitable change, when they come together as a team, they can achieve anything they want. Peace and leadership are the true challenges for our society.

Today, we start the celebrations of our 50th anniversary in a very fitting manner by opening our O3B satellite installation, which will allow our students and staff to control the ICT technologies which have become such a dominant driver of change globally.

When the university was founded in 1965, the technologies of the 20th century dominated: heavy mechanical installations, electrical power networks, and fixed line telephones. In the 21st century, we have a disintermediated, and decommodified service and experience economy, weightless IT networks, and mobile technology. The cost of access information any time, any place has become zero. This allows for an unprecedented scale and reach of all our activities as a university.

This technology is a tool to achieve our vision by focusing on our mission. It will allow us to finally externalize our programs in a cost effective manner, and deliver university in all provinces that want to work with us.

Recently, for example, we formed a partnership with Central Queensland University who are leaders in online program delivery in Australia. We will start with a pilot program in the field of logistics, which is so relevant for the port of Lae and the logistics industry. We will continue to explore opportunities in business studies, agriculture and health care management.

Will UNITECH be future proof, and ready for the next 50 years? I think it will.

Can we make UNITECH fly? Yes we can.

With a clearly established vision, mission and core values, effective management and sufficient investment, together we can turn this institution around. It is not the Chancellor or Vice Chancellor's office who do this, it is all of us, Faculty, Staff and students together.

In closing, on 26 May 1966, 50 years ago our University was created as a technical institute housed by an Act of the House of Assembly, on the same campus and on the same day as the University of Papua New Guinea. We accepted our first students in 1967, after a mere 7 months of preparation.

Our Taraka campus in Lae was opened on 27 July 1969, 3 years later, by Paul Hasluck, then the Governor General of Australia, who was also a poet. He was the one with Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who signed off on the independence of Papua New Guinea.

In one of his poems, Paul Hasluck intuitively seems to grasp the universal reach UNITECH can have now thanks to broadband internet and this new O3B technology. He describes a place, with clean air, surrounded by trees, where little insects crawl, and the air filled with the song of birds. From this very same campus, with its beautiful trees and birds, his voices almost 50 years ago declares with great confidence:

"From here the living me, inhabits without vehicle the whole universe."

He reminds us that no vehicle is needed for a universal presence. For us to inhabit the whole universe, we need not any specific tool or technology, just the full awareness and realisation of our identity.

These words highlight the importance of being completely and fully educated, self-esteem and self-confidence: being a captain of one's soul and master of one's destiny (in the words of another poet).

We are confident we will make UNITECH fly. We hope this government will fly with us. Having ended our internet isolation, will help us realize our true potential and our achievements will fill the universe. It is up to us to do it.

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