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If we're short-sighted, give us glasses

An ICT industry leader, Geoff Lawrie, has attacked Kiwis for being blind to the potential of super-fast broadband.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor on

An ICT industry leader, Geoff Lawrie, has attacked Kiwis for being blind to the potential of super-fast broadband.

That may well be true, but I think the ICT sector is to blame for the blindness.

Companies may have convinced government to part with $1.5 billion but we have heard little about the actual benefits of 100Mbps, or to put it simply, they haven't told us clearly what it will actually do. They have failed to sell the benefits!

When $5000 per household will be spent in the government's program in New Zealand, one might hope for more than faster downloads of porn, television and better video-conferencing.

Come on, where is the imagination? Where are the new applications and services we should expect for our billions, the technologies that should transform our lives?

We hear about how transformational it will be and how important such broadband will be for our countries, but we hear little or nothing on what it will actually be used for and the business benefits of it.

Auckland power company Vector has been campaigning on the issue of fibre to the door, seeking feedback from Kiwis on what they might use it for, but few others seem to be spreading any message or encouraging any debate.

Even in pushing Australia's National Broadband Network, your government has been vague on the end-use specifics.

Nonetheless, researchers Frost & Sullivan is so excited about New Zealand's Ultra Fast Broadband program that it sent me a paper on it a few months ago.

The company pointed out the potential for transformation, citing uses in tourism, health, agriculture and education. Certainly, Frost & Sullivan offered more in the way of specifics, more benefits for business than what we have seen in the debate so far.

So come on! Where are the new and sexy applications to justify the billions being spent?

At least Lawrie offers a few clear ideas.

He reels off examples ranging from elderly patients using their TV sets to consult their GP, to satellite work centres that are a 10-minute bike ride from home that offer uninterrupted access to the company network and phone system.

He said there needed to be examples to show business people in Hamilton, Taupo, Invercargill and Greymouth how they could use high-definition video to connect with suppliers in China or customers in London and still have dinner at home with the family.

However, perhaps it will be like earlier technological innovations. Uses will be developed that we haven't even dreamed of! I hope so.

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