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Early morning, PNGDF, IT and me

1  - PNGDF IT team pose for a group photo
The PNGDF IT team poses for a group photo

| PNGDF Defence Media

PORT MORESBY - It was early one dark morning at PNGDF headquarters inside Murray Barracks, Port Moresby.

The kind of early morning that makes people say it is always darkest before dawn.

I was slouched in the manner of a drunken stupor over the keyboard, staring at the desktop screen.

If it was hangover, it would be a privilege; but this was a day I had dedicated to meet a deadline.

A steady drizzle that started about an hour ago was drumming lazily on the roof of surrounding buildings.

Morning’s twilight for some reason seemed delayed, as if it refused to come or was conspiring with darkness to prolong the night.

The door to my office was slightly opened, its slant spilling a neat slash of pale-yellow light that cut across a dim corridor before it dropped over the rails into a backdrop of shadows lurking over the lawn below.

Through the gentle raindrops, the light trailed into a section of the Force Preparation Branch (FPB) building to the right, vaguely silhouetted against a veil of darkness hovering over the nearby Brigadier Hill.

FPB housed certain PNGDF operations, including the directorates of maritime, land and air.

I leaned back in my chair and stared through the door, feeling my lovely Kerema fingers slink quietly into the burrows of my jean pockets in search of any surviving dust from my last cigarette.

I adjusted myself on the chair to give my fingers enough space.

They sometimes operate on their own.

The gloom did not allow me to make out the Force Information and Technology (IT) section, tucked into the far end of the ground floor.

These are the folks responsible for monitoring and maintaining the entire Defence internet network.

Over recent months the section had been deployed to execute a complete internet network upgrade across the Force.

This included a new super-dooper Cisco Hyperflex multi-cloud server believed to be the first in PNG and a new frontier in the digital world.

It delivers a high performance network and connectivity where data and users can reliably connect anywhere in the world. Anywhere.

2 - IT staff upgrade existing network switches within the Force Logistics Branch
IT staffer Daniel Kais (front) with two members of the team during the upgrade

After years of being on a Land Area Network (LAN), the organisation began the upgrade early this year with more emphasis being placed on protecting the users and information transmitted.

“Cyber security challenges are growing along with the expansion of internet and opportunists are aiming at political and military assets of a nation or its people,” said chief of staff Captain Philip Polewara.

Polewara said it is important for the PNGDF to keep pace with the changing web and its associated threats and to optimise a better and secure network strengthening its role as the key security agency.

The complete transition was introduced under the Defence Cooperation Program and is set to enhance confidentiality, storage and transfer of Defence information and data.

I felt those fingers search along the inside edges of the pockets as I turned to check the time on the screen.

A new Word document I had opened a few hours ago stared back at me, still blank.

It was this story I wanted to write but did not know where to start.

I am fascinated by the web, yet it is strange and extremely perilous.

Especially the hidden zone of the internet known as the Dark Web, where shadowy societies roam freely and anonymously, hidden from the public eye.

It is a world of scammers, predators, thieves and people without faces feasting on unsuspecting individuals, communities, businesses and nations.

These dark forces exist beneath the surface of the internet you access daily. Even if I knew how to access them, I would not do so.

That is a story for experts to tell.

Thanking the Defence Cooperation Program, Captain Polewara said the transition would also play a major role to assess and plan cyber security strategies.

It’s just a week ago that there was more drilling next door to my office which Force Preparation Branch clarified was the last part of the installation and upgrade along the Defence secretariat corridor where I was located.

By now the darkness outside was lightening and I slowly got up from my chair, feeling those fingers crawling back out. Mission unsuccessful.

I pitied them as I stepped out from behind the desk and headed for the door, leaving behind the cold cup of coffee on the desktop.

Headquarters PNGDF was allowed to connect to the new system last week as IT staff continued their assessment, programming and upgrading of switches across the new network.

There are technical details I won’t confuse you with here.

IT is currently rolling out cables around 1RPIR headquarters at Taurama Barracks after completing HQ PNGDF, Force Support Battalion (and the Force Air Transport Squadron.

It’s been a big job.

3 - PNGDF IT staff Captain Quinten Uvia checking a series along the network
IT Captain Quinten Uvia checking out a series along the network

Training is being provided under the same package by the Defence Cooperation Program.

By now a misty twilight was slowly emerging, repainting the foliage as I stepped out into the corridor.

The early sounds of traffic along the Hohola road drifted through the air, fading into an orchestra of insects continuing their tuneless carols from the lawn below.

The birds seemed quiet, probably fooled by the delay to the day, as I stood there, embracing the cold morning breeze like an old friend.


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Kenny Pawa

Well done.

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