Mobile telephones for public messaging: Did the referendum information hotline make a difference?
Last year (2019), the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville voted overwhelmingly to break away from Papua New Guinea in a non-binding referendum. In the pre-referendum period, there was a strong focus on informing voters about the two referendum options (independence or greater autonomy) to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the result, and help maintain peace in a post-conflict setting.
This seminar includes brief presentations by the producers of a telephone information hotline that operated for eight weeks just before polling. The hotline was a national first in the application of a mobile telephone-based platform to deliver public information en masse. It allowed Bougainvilleans to ring a free-call number and hear pre-recorded messages about the referendum and the two other pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement - autonomy and weapons disposal. The hotline was one element of a multi-media package of government information initiatives supported by Australia and New Zealand.
There is also a presentation by the audience researcher who analysed the impact of the service. The qualitative research findings, which were recently published, assess the effectiveness of the telephone hotline in delivering government information directly to citizens. Recommendations are also made about whether such a service should continue.
Gordon Peake is a 2020-2021 Visitor with the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University. He worked as an adviser to the Bougainville government 2016-2020.
Dr Amanda Watson
Amanda H.A. Watson is a Research Fellow with the Department of Pacific Affairs at Australian National University.
Mr Jeremy Miller
Jeremy Miller is a strategic media and communications adviser with over 15 years of experience in Melanesia. He has worked with the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Directorate of Media and Communication since 2014. In 2019 he was seconded to the Bougainville Referendum Commission to lead the media and voter communications campaign. Mr Miller’s position is supported by the Bougainville Partnership, a development partnership between the governments of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.
Ms Adriana Schmidt
Adriana Schmidt is the Director of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Directorate of Media and Communication, the agency responsible for whole of government communications. The Directorate is under the Department of President and the Bougainville Executive Council.