Improving NZ's IT rank with broadband

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Information Technology Report, New Zealand is rising up the charts while Australia is slipping.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Information Technology Report, New Zealand is rising up the charts while Australia is slipping.

New Zealand is 18th, Australia 17th; the kangaroo might one day be beaten by the kiwi!

I'm not sure if this will happen, as richer Australia with its larger population means that its markets can be more competitive, so technology is cheaper and used more.

But I have always been struck by the innovation of New Zealanders and the little devices and solutions kiwis often come up with. It seems as though we are limited only by our wallets, our markets and our distance.

One of the factors in a country's IT rankings is the use of Ultra-Fast Broadband. But what will we do with it when we get it?

The New Zealand Institute fears that the country is not yet ready, and that all the extra broadband capacity and speed will be used mainly for entertainment, rather than for anything else.

Such are the fears of the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand that it has organised a couple of presentations featuring an advisor to the UK government, Dr Tim Williams. He is to release a report on how UFB can transform New Zealand into a networked society through Ultra-Fast Broadband.

"The lesson from the UK is clear: we cannot measure success by access to broadband — the real goal must be use by people. High-speed broadband is too significant to be left to geeks and engineers," Williams said.

That does seem fair enough. We do need to think more about what we're going to do with UFB when it arrives, considering new services, not just its use to business.

Dr Williams will be presenting a few case studies based on his experiences in Britain.

High-speed broadband should ease relations between government and people and we also hear much about e-democracy. Also of interest is how faster broadband is helping health services via digitising x-rays, or the use of "telehealth" in remote areas. Tele-conferencing and tele-commuting will also change the way we work, and will reduce traffic use.

Such examples have also been cited in Australia. Earlier this year, Dr Williams presented a similar "Connecting Communities" report for Australia, where he noted that UFB could help re-populate the "bush."

It is great for someone to come and raise the issue of the potential of UFB because we don't seem to be hearing much from anyone as to its full potential. Yes, telecommuting and teleconferencing are somewhat old hat now, and New Zealand already uses broadband for X-rays and health services. We certainly do need to hear more about what UFB might bring.

We can also ask Williams where the UK has gone wrong. It is now 15th in the global IT rankings, when just a few years back, it was only 9th!

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