ADVOCATE COLUMN 3rd WEEK MAY 2011
The roll out of ultra-fast broadband (UFB) in Whangarei is now well underway and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) is also not far off being launched. One of the projects that the Northland Chamber of Commerce is involved in is chairing the Regional Digital Leadership Forum. Membership of this group comes from local government, industry representatives, the business sector and community organisations. UFB will provide every business access to reliable and ubiquitous broadband. It is the ability to do what you need to do, where you are, and without having to compromise on quality.
These initiatives will provide a reliable connectivity with sufficient capacity to suit the needs of most people within our community. But all this actually will do is provide the means. To make the case for UFB compelling will require skills and a secure online environment with which to access or create content. If this can be achieved then there will be real benefit for all Northlanders. For a change New Zealand and Northland have a competitive advantage when compared to other parts of the world in that the small scale of the project and the relatively simple nature of the structure will allow for a potentially inclusive and collaborative approach.
Given some of the unique challenges Northland faces that are brought about by the physical geographic nature of the region; health and education are two sectors that will be able to embrace technology to enhance their capability and capacity. Just like business, the question these groups will have to consider is what the outcomes are that this technology can provide and how will this change the way they operate?
Technology will not in itself provide a panacea to the problems facing Northland but it is another opportunity to grow our economy and strengthen the Region’s various isolated communities. Even if the immediate gains are made only in the area of increased capability to deliver education and raise literacy levels, this will have a positive benefit and should be encouraged.
The rewards of UFB connectivity that people have confidence in, is the potential to create businesses capable of providing or using the content and services to grow Northland’s economy. For business this is not just about doing things faster but about providing a platform on which rich content can be developed and used. This will require a mindset shift among many within business to embrace this technology in innovative ways.