What is the Future of Broadband in New Zealand?

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Over an insightful 2 days, the Commerce Commission drew together hundreds of ICT practitioners, broadband industry leaders, academics, researchers, small start ups, lobby groups, IT consultants and community leaders to take stock of our digital today and to look ahead to New Zealands broadband future.

We had tuned into the online stream to watch the first day of the conference, joining the live audience on day 2 where we heard Hon Amy Adams, the new Minister for ICT, talk about the emerging opportunities that will come from the roll out of the Ultra Fast Broadband initiative (UFBi) and the Rural Broadband initiative (RBi). Minister Adams spoke of the potential advances in medicine and education, pointing toward the benefits of a centralized Cloud system (as a side note, Google also had a meeting right next door, just the day before), shying away from Industry Regulation and triumphantly proclaiming that these new infrastructure builds were game changers.

During the day, we heard interesting korero from Alcatel-Lucent (their study had crunched data and seen that both the UFBi and the RBi would cost a total of $5.5b, producing as much as $33b over the next 10 years), a survey from Nielson on Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) (who looked forward to increased broadband and wanted to see the data cap lifted and the price come down) and a survey from Roy Morgan Research (the interest in new services will be around HDTV, Pay Per View Content, Gaming demand and Online Dr Visits).

The first panel discussion saw Leaders from SKYTV, MediaWorks, FairFax and NZ Gaming Developers Association take the stage and present their credentials. We were struck by the fact that even though the giants of the industry sat in front of us, they too were taking hits in the market and seemed to be reaching out to find allies, to get people more involved and to make their delivery models more interactive. We could still sense the tension but as the Minister said, the game was changing.

The next panel was around the Drivers of SME demand, in particular the areas of tourism, publishing, technology innovations and education. The bro from HDMedia had us all sit up and take notice as he seemed to be walking the talk, adapting to the changing rules and finding new audiences in the online magazine & eNewsletter market. He talked beyond the business of making money, saying …socially we are fucked up in too many obvious areas. Amene brother.

It was our turn after lunch, speaking on the Drivers of Rural demand, alongside Liz Evans, National President for Rural Women NZ, Phil McKenzie from LandCorp and Antony Royal, Maori IT Jedi Master and Chair of Nga Pu Waea. What I enjoyed was hearing about how each community had its own expectations with existing and future broadband, adapting to our own conditions but reminding the entire country that the rural backbone was taking note of what city-folk were up too. The korero was refreshing as each panelist spoke to the leadership within their own organizations, presenting the challenges to be sure but stepping up to provide technological opportunities at home, on the farm and on the marae. This area has a To Be Continued feel for us

International Guest Speaker Dr Kate Cornick spoke about IBES Australia and their mutli-leveled, multi-layered examination of life aided by technology. It was a year by year step through of an imaginary life, tracking the services which IBES could provide over a lifetime in essence, from the puku to the whenua. It was an eye-opening experience, showing where and how hauora services might apply technology.

The next panel fused eHealth with eLearning and a number of significant points were made here, in particular the aging New Zealand population looking for new eHealth services through to the younger, more numerous Millennials who have started building their own sense of self and look to be approaching the world in a totally different way. This panel fielded lots of questions, from the future of libraries to who owned the knowledge once it was shared.

As this is just a brief report back, we will examine each panel and discussion with greater focus on what these will mean to Maori over the coming weeks.

For now, please check out the following link: http://www.futurebroadband.co.nz/

The Video Sessions from both days will be posted shortly.

If I were to tentatively summarise, the entire country could benefit from the current broadband build from mahi today to services tomorrow but think that Government bias, large Industry lobbies and fixed lines of old school thinking will limit any true, all-inclusive flow on. Some will benefit heartily, as pointed out by the research of Alcatel-Lucent, while most (of us) will be relegated to customer status, hopelessly left downstream while the party upstream drinks on champagne.

This leaves Maori in a worse situation.

But rather than being cynical straight out, we want to ask around the Maori ICT industry for our thoughts, to stock take our own situation and to once again put forward our aspirations, our direction, our own projections and solutions to challenges and will post those up soon.

Many thanks to Silvia and the Commerce Commission for the invitation, to our fellow panelists and speakers, thank you; shout outs to SkyCity mean-age! And to the many good people we shared small dreams with, we look forward to doing some mahi aroha together soon.

na TangataWhenua.com LIVE from Tamaki Makau Rau

1 COMMENT

  1. There is frustration out there, and rightly so… broadband is now an essential service that we all need (both in our homes, and our place of work). There shouldn’t be any discussion over whether we need it or not – technology has already evolved and moved in the direction of the internet. It is an enabler to be more efficient and productive.

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