Years of neglect of network infrastructure meant that, until relatively recently, Papua New Guinea experienced only minimal coverage by landlines and even less by mobile networks. In mid-2007, total teledensity was just four per cent countrywide and zero in the majority of rural area. The sector was liberalised in 2007, and Irish company Digicel entered the market soon after. Prices dropped quickly, and innovative retail models and advertising campaigns meant that consumer uptake was swift. Mobile networks have expanded exponentially over the past five years to now cover some 75 per cent of the country’s population. Phone ownership has increased apace, and some estimates suggest that over 30 per cent of the population now has a mobile phone, dwarfing the number of fixed-line connections. Mobile phone penetration is growing fast — from just 1 per cent in 2005 to 35 per cent in 2011.
Even today Papua New Guineans stand under a host of kinship obligations which would seem oppressive to most Europeans and North Americans. Some traditional societies reckon kinship through the father, some through the mother, and some through both parents. Similarly residence and gardening rights may pass through the father, the mother or both. In some societies where it is believed that women sap men’s strength and endanger men’s health, husbands and wives did not live in the same house until forced by Christian missionaries to do so (and even today often live in separate rooms of a shared house). In some societies, certain relatives have an obligation to provide pigs, shell money and other forms of wealth (these days including increasingly large amounts of cash) to help a man pay the brideprice (braitprais; mani bilong baim meri) custom requires him to give his prospective wife’s family. The basic Tok Pisin kinship terminology is given below.