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Blending theory & practice to build PNG


Iso Yawi
"The integration of industry and academic experience is essential for driving progress and development"  -  Iso Yawi


LAE – Next Friday - 5 April - marks a significant day for the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, which hosts its 56th graduation ceremony.

With the theme, ‘Impacting livelihood through the advancement of science and technology’, this event underscores the crucial role of education and innovation in shaping the future of our nation.

It is a theme that resonates deeply with me, and prompting me to reflect on my journey in electrical engineering in my nearly 10 years immersed in the telecommunications industry, specifically the monumental task of establishing the new Vodafone network from scratch.

I worked alongside a team of passionate engineers who had experience with other companies including Aviat Networks, Kacific, Speed Cast, Huawei, ZTE, PNG Data Co, PNG Power and many more.

In this stimulating professional climate, I was compelled to revisit my own academic pursuit and study for a bachelor’s degree in electrical and communications engineering.

Transitioning from the dynamic world of industry to the academic realm was not without challenges.

As I delved into my degree program, I found myself navigating between these two worlds, striving to apply my industry experience to the rigours of academic study.

My career has taken me across the length and breadth of Papua New Guinea, exposing me to the tangible needs of communities.

It is evident that our country is in dire need of advancement in various sectors, including power systems, renewable energy, telecommunications, marine, mining and forestry as well as overall economic development.

In remote places like Saruwaget in Morobe Province, where traditional electricity infrastructure is impractical due to challenging terrain, simple solutions like solar panels offer a glimpse of hope in providing much-needed power for basic needs.

Similarly, the lack of telecommunications coverage in areas like Baining in East New Britain underscores the urgent need for connectivity, which I witnessed firsthand while deploying Vodafone infrastructure in here and in other remote regions.

Access to reliable energy sources is essential for everyday life in communities across PNG: whether it's a simple light powered by a 12-volt battery in Telefomin or the stability of large scale power grids in urban centres.

In the academic realm, I encountered a wealth of theoretical knowledge that provided a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles electrical engineering.

My courses ranged from circuit analysis to power systems engineering and they equipped me with the theoretical framework necessary to tackle real-world problems.

Moreover, engaging with professors and peers in academic discussions fostered critical thinking and problem-solving skills, enabling me to approach challenges with a systematic and analytical mindset.

But it has been my experiences in the telecommunications industry that truly enriched my understanding of electrical engineering.

Working alongside seasoned professionals, I gained practical insights into the design, implementation, and maintenance of telecommunications networks, from laying down fibre optic cables to configuring network equipment, every aspect of my work contributed to my professional growth.

My most memorable experiences have been the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure in remote regions.

These projects deeply impacted the communities they served and were technologically challenging. Witnessing the joy and gratitude of villagers as they gained access to communication services reinforced my belief in the transformative power of technology.

Moreover, these experiences exposed me to the necessity and complexities of project management, teamwork and client interaction.

Balancing technical requirements with budgetary constraints and stakeholder expectations taught me invaluable lessons in leadership and communication - whether coordinating with suppliers to procure equipment or liaising with government agencies to obtain permits.

There are countless opportunities at the intersection of industry and academia. By bridging the gap between theory and practice, we can unlock new avenues of innovation and drive sustainable development.

Academic research can inform industry practices, leading to the development of new technologies and methodologies. Industry insights can inspire academic inquiry, guiding researchers towards relevant and impactful areas of study.

Moreover, collaboration between academia and industry can facilitate the transfer of knowledge and expertise, nurturing a culture of lifelong learning and professional development.

By fostering partnerships between universities, research institutions and corporations, we can create ecosystems that support innovation and entrepreneurship.

In Papua New Guinea, where the challenges of development are manifold, the need for collaboration between industry and academia is particularly important for the growth and prosperity of our society.

Whether it's addressing energy poverty, improving infrastructure or expanding access to communication services, the convergence of academic research and industrial expertise can lead to innovative solutions that have a lasting impact on society.

The integration of industry and academic experience is essential for driving progress and development in electrical engineering.

By leveraging the complementary strengths of both sectors, we can tackle complex challenges, develop new solutions and create a brighter future for PNG.

The University of Technology’s 56th graduation ceremony is a moment when we can reaffirm our commitment to advancing science and technology for the betterment of all.

Together, we can build a more prosperous and sustainable future for our nation.


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