IN early 2007, there were only 50,000 mobile telephone users in Papua New Guinea, a nation of six million people, and the same number of landlines. A phone was a symbol of class. Only the elite — politicians, senior bureaucrats and businesspeople — could afford the handsets and call charges.

There are now more than one million mobile users in the former Australian territory, and PNG is being transformed, an experience occurring in some other developing countries too. Under the previous, lethargic government monopoly of B Mobile, phone users could make scratchy calls between five main urban centres in a country where 90 per cent of the population still lives in rural areas.

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