Connecting communities to clean energy and the digital economy in PNG

This partnership aims to provide access to affordable and reliable solar energy solutions to off-grid households and small businesses in PNG. The initiative will release a range of reliable solar products into the market, from entry-level phone charging/lanterns to large home and business kits capable of powering TVs and other appliances. These products will be brought to market by leveraging Digicel’s extensive distribution and organisational capabilities across PNG. This will provide a range of sustainable, cost effective and environmentally friendly alternatives to current costly and inferior energy sources, and enable better access to, and connection with, the digital economy.

Progress update

January 2018

Digicel met its targets for procuring 40,000 units of stock and sold 20,500 solar units between November 2016 and July 2017. The company streamlined operations by moving from managing multiple distribution channels to exclusively using wholesale distributors. This change in strategy improves logistics and keeps prices as low as possible for customers. The retail team grew and an IT system was developed to manage and monitor transactions and to improve the customer experience.

Key activities

  • Digital media advertising drove sales of the solar products. Distribution changed from using multiple channels to using only wholesale distributors, to be more streamlined, efficient and form part of the company’s regular business.
  • Digicel appointed a head of Shared Value and expanded its retail management team.
  • IT systems were developed to manage inventory, collect data, warranty information, customer feedback, and to monitor payments and sales targets.

July 2017

Digicel has hired staff to manage the project, acquired solar units and met its first sales target. Households are being connected to the digital economy and benefiting from access to reliable clean energy.

Key activities

  • Recruited 24 key staff to form a dedicated Digicel solar team.
  • Acquired 18,000 solar units as stock to be sold, with another 2,000 expected in a coming shipment.
  • Met sales target, with 4,967 solar units sold and more expected in the coming months.

Partnership aims

  • Substantially decreases recurring energy expenditure incurred by PNG households and small businesses.
  • Financial and time savings for households by having an energy source on the premises.
  • Health and safety benefits associated with solar energy solution, reducing indoor air pollution and the risk of fires from candles and oil lamps. 
  • Better access to, and connection with, the digital economy (mobile, smartphones, laptops, etc)
  • Create new jobs in sales, marketing and after-sales service.


Private sector funding


DFAT funding


Total Value



Start date: November 2016

End date: June 2018

Industry sector

Energy – Off-Grid


Around 90% of the PNG population is currently not connected to the electricity grid, severely constraining their participation in the digital economy. This partnership will build the foundation of Digicel’s consumer solar business by introducing basic solar lanterns and kits, through cash and carry retail sales into the Momase region. The initiative will build on this foundation, by increasing its range of solar products, routes to market, payment options and geographic coverage. The improved ability to charge mobile phones and computers will significantly boost access to GSM and data services and better connect communities to the digital economy.

Shared value

Shared value is defined as policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of companies while improving social and environmental conditions in the regions where they operate. It is a business strategy focused on companies creating measurable economic benefit by identifying and addressing social problems that intersect with their business. To qualify as shared value, there must be an identifiable economic benefit to the company as well as measurable impact on a social or environmental issue.

The BPP is helping businesses partner with the Australian aid program in achieving shared value – advancing both social and economic objectives. These partnerships are primarily being created in one or more of the following ways:

  • Reconceiving products and/or markets
  • Redefining productivity in the value chain
  • Enabling local cluster development
Digicel staff and customer with mobile phone

Reconceiving products or/and markets

Households incur significant up front and recurring costs (time and money) on low performing lighting  products (such as kerosene and candles). Beyond lighting, most households have no capacity to generate electricity which can power mobile phones or laptops which allow them to access digital services. Beyond the crippling financial cost, the use of basic fuels to provide lighting also creates a range of detrimental side effects including respiratory infections, chronic lung disease and eye infections. This partnership will provide access to affordable and reliable solar energy solutions to off-grid households and small businesses in PNG.

Digicel two school students at desk with computer

Enabling local cluster development

Productivity can be extended through increased ‘daylight’ hours, especially for cottage industries/handicrafts, micro-retail outlets, fisherman and smallholder farmers, who cannot sell, catch or process products without lighting. In industries like farming, which have a limited window for post-handling of products and delivery to market, the limits to productivity created by lack of lighting can have serious consequences. Increased connectivity can improve access to market information for crops, which can facilitate better market opportunities.

With respect to battery charging solutions, these hybrid lighting/power products will provide, in many cases the only access to cheap, reliable and renewable charging options. Access to electricity in this form has the potential to rapidly reduce the cost of charging mobile and portable devices and facilitating greater opportunities for communities to unlock the potential of the digital economy.

Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

Women in PNG typically are primarily responsible for domestic work, including caring for family members and cooking. By providing access to household solar energy products, women in particular benefit from reduced air pollution and fire risk from candles and oil lamps for better health, extended hours for study and work, and greater freedom to socialise in the home. Further, women have better access to and connection with mobile data coverage, opening up opportunities for microenterprises in the home. Digicel have also shown a commitment to review and improve their gender impact with regular surveys.

Partner information

The partnership is between Digicel and DFAT.


Digicel staff  


Digicel was established in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in July 2007. It has developed a very strong local brand, with currently 81% brand awareness in PNG. Digicel employs over 900 men and women in PNG and its mobile phone coverage reaches over 90% of the population of PNG.

Digicel will leverage, as part of the overall partnership, its national presence, local knowledge, existing client base, networks, telecommunications infrastructure and other resources to ensure the success of the initiative. 

Last Updated: 30 January 2018