In late 2019, the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea voted in a referendum that offered two choices: greater autonomy or independence. The referendum was required by the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA), which was signed by Bougainville leaders and the National Government in 2001 after a decade-long conflict. In the pre-referendum period, there was a strong need for the delivery of information to citizens in order to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the referendum itself.
This Discussion Paper focuses on a telephone information hotline that operated for eight weeks just before polling, allowing people throughout Bougainville to ring a free-call number and hear pre-recorded informational messages about the referendum and the two other pillars of the BPA, autonomy and weapons disposal. The hotline was one government information initiative supported by Australia and New Zealand, which used a mobile telephone-based platform to deliver awareness. The paper reports on research involving group interviews with leaders, women and youths. This research was designed to determine the effectiveness of the telephone hotline in delivering government information directly to citizens; determine whether there would be benefits to using such a service in the future; and determine recommended changes to any future iterations.
This paper provides a brief history of Bougainville and the context of the referendum. It outlines media and communication access in Bougainville and introduces the telephone hotline. The research questions, research design and findings are presented, followed by a discussion of the research in relation to relevant literature. The discussion section also gives some practical recommendations. Finally, the conclusion presents the answers to the research questions and provides suggestions for further research.