Information flow and innovation diffusion in the East Sepik district, Papua New Guinea




Allen, Bryant James

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This study is concerned with the diffusion and adoption of innovations in the Dreikikir Local Government Council Area, in the East Sepik District of Papua New Guinea. Two major hypotheses are examined; first that information movement is closely associated with the patterns of innovation diffusion and adoption, and with post-adoption use of innovations; and second, that increasing accessibility to information from the outside associated with increased desire for rapid and far reaching change among village people, but that' the information they receive and the manner in which they perceive it, causes their responses to be disturbed and inadequate. The study investigates, within a frame of general theories of polarised development, the flow of information from national centres through communication networks to the rural villages, which are the lowest orders of a hierachy of central places. Almost all studies .conclude that "backwash" effects .will be much stronger than "spread effects" in a developing economy, unless deliberate action is taken to remedy the situation. The Papua New Guinea government is pledged to reduce inequalities between rural and urban areas, between income levels and between regions. To do this a better understanding is needed of how innovations reach rural areas and what happens when they are received by village people. The first hypothesis is investigated by deriving a set of communication fields from various sources, including a pre-colonial ceremonial exchange network, and from foot tracks and road networks, which have existed in various periods between 1900 and the present day. Measures of accessibility from villages to places and roads in 1972 are derived from details of the personal movements of individuals in 1972. Experiences of places beyond the study area, and of the location of kin, and receipt of personal mail are also taken into account. Mass media are investigated and found to have an insignificant influence in the flow of information. The pattern of diffusion and adoption of a number of clearly identifiable innovations which have spread in the study area since 1900 are then reconstructed and compared to the patterns of information flow. Although it is not possible to investigate this relationship statistically, the patterns are seen to be closely related. The relationship between the degree of participation in innovative activities in villages in 1972 and their access to various points, is investigated using rank correlation tests. The highest associations are found to exist between participation and access from villages to the all-weather highway leading east to the main town and port. The second hypothesis is investigated by studying the reactions of the village people to the innovations which have spread into the area. Some of the innovations which have been adopted have been associated with small scale commercial activities, rice and coffee growing, retail trade store enterprises and passenger motor vehicle operations. Others have been related to attempts by villagers to bring about the Melanesian millenium, activities which are commonly known as 'cargo cult'. The perception of both these activities by villagers is examined, and the patterns of diffusion and adoption of them compared. In both cases patterns are found to be similar. It is argued that villagers have been motivated by their colonial experiences, to seek the possession of material wealth and power similar to that seen to be in the possession of Europeans and urban dwelling Papua New Guineans. A detailed account of the area's colonial past, and ten first hand narratives by innovative leaders are offered in support of this argument. That the reactions of village people have been greatest in those areas which have the best access to information flow is shown by referring back to the patterns established in the investigation of the first hypothesis. The implications for future national .development are twofold. First, village people may totally or partially abandon their present commercial activities, because they do not fully satisfy their highly inflated expectations. Second, millenarian-type movements may become more common, more politically oriented and more militant. Under these conditions, the introduction of growth inducing innovations into villages in rural areas will become increasingly difficult.



Diffusion of innovations, Communication--Social aspects--Papua New Guinea--Sepik, Sepik (Papua New Guinea)--Economic conditions




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