We're not world laggards in tech

New Zealand politicians talk about 'catching up' with Australia and there is a constant belief that abroad is always better, especially on the economic and business front.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor on

New Zealand politicians talk about "catching up" with Australia and there is a constant belief that abroad is always better, especially on the economic and business front.

While Australia has its chauvinistic "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" attitude, similar can be found from those who look enviously to the richer economies of the USA and Europe.

Yet I arrived in Vancouver this week and can assure you that the grass is not always greener.

For starters, our airlines with their keen, pretty and young staff deliver far better service and food than the grumpy geriatrics on Air Canada. Our Holiday Inns are better too. And the ride from the airport to downtown Vancouver passes through suburbs grottier than any you will find on the airport run in Sydney and Auckland.

The same applies with technology. Down under, we do not get the raw deal we might believe.

After visiting four stores — yes, four stores — to get a plug adapter to work my laptop, I noticed my mobile phone wouldn't work. Recalling the experiences of a friend who visited here a few days ago, I remembered his recommendation to use a company called Rogers Wireless where he said I should easily obtain a new chip for my mobile and away I would go.

While New Zealand high streets are dominated by the glowing reds of the Vodafone stores, the bright blue of Telecom, not to mention other resellers like Bond & Bond, Harvey Norman and the Warehouse; in Canada such mobile retailers seem that much rarer.

I eventually found a Rogers Wireless outlet near my hotel, but the staff there said I better head to downtown where they could test whether I would need to unlock my phone.

It turned out that I did and they sent me to an IT repairer in an upstairs office who wanted to take a day and charge me C$25 for the privilege. I don't recall paying anywhere near as much or it taking so long for such services in Auckland or Sydney.

Since I had neglected to bring my battery charger, I thought I might as well get a new mobile phone.

However, Rogers Wireless had its cheapest prepay mobile phone for C$80. Another company had them for C$70, but the retailer wanted to charge a further C$25 to get me access to the network.

In a neighbouring cybercafe, I mentioned this and was told to go to a 7-11 convenience store.

There, I was able to get a basic Nokia for C$100, with C$50 credit, and remember, we are talking Canadian dollars here, something worth far more than the Ocker or Kiwi variety.

Certainly, the cost is far more than the NZ$60 to NZ$70 you might pay in New Zealand to get on to the 2degrees network.

Yes, the Canadian public do get a bad deal from their telcos, which constantly try and push users into three-year contracts.

Telcos or wireless operators, as they are called here, were accused this week of having a "death grip" on consumers, with prices higher than many countries. Contracts were "complicated" and "confusing" with "draconian" penalties for early termination.

Now, they might be giving away BlackBerry phones, but taking the exchange rate into account, I do wonder if such rates are competitive to what we pay down under.

Certainly, the C$200 wireless internet mobile turbo sticks I have seen seem a poor deal compared to what you might pay in New Zealand, say NZ$99 for the basic Vodafone variety.

And looking at today's paper, the Dell deals seem no bargain either.

You might expect better when Silicon Valley is just down the freeway, but then again, China is so much farther away.

Either way, while there is always room for improvement, perhaps we should all stop our bleating when it comes to our telcos and similar technology.

As the old John Clark/Fred Dagg song goes, we don't know how lucky we are!

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