Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Information Technology Education in Papua New Guinea: Cultural, Economic and Political Influences

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Information Technology Education in Papua New Guinea: Cultural, Economic and Political Influences

Article excerpt

Introduction

Rapid and continuous changes in information and communication technologies have produced shortages of Information Technology (IT) professionals throughout the world, particularly in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). These changes may mean that an individual's competence quickly becomes outmoded. Policy makers, who see the education system as the vehicle by which IT professionals are trained and prepared to meet industry needs, must have confidence that educational institutions are able to produce people to meet the demands of the changing world. The availability of human resources is still the most important element in IT diffusion.

IT professionals in industry, and educators, may neglect to consider each other's perspective of the workplace. Employers argue that university graduates possess general computing knowledge, but lack specific skills that industry requires. IT professionals are required to possess a distinct blend of technical and non-technical skills, business orientation, and attention to customer service to be successful. Educators place an emphasis on theory, problem solving, and analytical skills.

Students in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are raised in different cultural backgrounds compared to those of Western Countries. As such they may have different perceptions and values that influence skills/knowledge development. Factors such as culture, gender and life history seem to affect students' view of IT as a field of study and work, and these factors may also affect the development of IT/IS skills.

We have been investigating IT curriculum requirements in PNG, and as part of that process have made a number of observations about the influence of cultural factors on IT education. Here we discuss social, economic and political issues that influence educating and developing IT professionals in LDCs and make particular reference to Papua New Guinea. These lead us to state a number of principals that appear appropriate for PNG IT education policy, and which may have application in other LDCs.

Background

Geography

PNG is an island nation north of Australia from which it became independent in 1975. It is a parliamentary democracy with a single legislature, the National Parliament, through elected members. Elections are held every 5 years for the 109 seats: 20 regional and 89 open electorates. It is an LDC with a small but slowly developing IT industry and relies on technology imported from other countries. PNG has cultural norms that are different to other countries. Like other LDCs, PNG's unstable political environment is one of the major hindrances to economic growth. Of its 4.5 million people, 85% live in rural areas. Overall there is a population density of 8 persons per square kilometer. The annual population growth rate is estimated at 2.4 percent. PNG has more languages (over 800) than any other country in the world, with the possible exception of India. The official language is English with Pidgin and Hiri Motu being used widely as lingua franca to facilitate communication among people of diverse linguistic backgrounds.

IT Workforce

There is wide shortage of IT professionals throughout the world, particularly in LDCs. In PNG the demand far outweighs their current availability. Computer systems and software are rapidly becoming outdated, making an individual's knowledge quickly obsolete. Policy makers generally see the education system as the vehicle by which IT professionals are trained and prepared to meet industry needs.

Emphasis is now placed on educational institutions to produce IT professionals to meet the demands of the changing workplace. Third world countries have been slower in realizing the significance of human resources development, in particular for IT, in order to become a part of the global context. In PNG, IT development and change is slow due to issues such as lack of funding, lack of adequately qualified teaching staff, lack of government support in terms of policy guidelines, and inadequate infrastructure. …

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