Rocking Ahead With Fast Internet - TUANZ

  • Paul Swain
Communications and Information Technology

Greetings: Graeme Osborne - TUANZ Chairman, Ernie Newman - Chief Executive, the companies and government agencies who have sponsored this event, and workshop delegates.

This workshop is the 7th of 18 such events around the country, which are designed to ensure the voice of youth and the regions is heard.

Both groups have valuable insights about how to use broadband, and we need to ensure we tap into everyone's ideas about how broadband can unlock our economic, social and cultural potential.

Rocking Ahead with Fast Internet is the third leg of a treble, when it comes to maximizing the use of broadband.

First there was the TUANZ National Broadband Applications Project held last November in Nelson. More than 200 people took part.

This was followed by the publication of "Survival of the Fastest" – a guide to how New Zealanders can use broadband to lead the world.

Now we have these seminars, which are the next step.

They are already leaving their mark on the landscape – 48 hours after Rocking Ahead With Fast Internet was held in Invercargill, the lower South Island was rocked by the country's biggest earthquake in decades.

At that workshop in Invercargill, an 11 year old schoolgirl is reported to have stolen the show with her presentation on the educational opportunities of broadband, such as: an alternative to boarding schools; mentoring for non-registered teachers; and even virtual field trips.

A few days beforehand in Dunedin, the students taking part showed themselves to be far ahead of many businesspeople in seeing the possibilities of broadband –Otago students are already developing and selling robotic assistants for American on-line games.

The Otago seminar also discussed a pressing issue in one of my other portfolios – how to solve Auckland's traffic problems with ideas like electronic congestion charges as in London; instant electronic traffic reports; and telecommuting.

Perhaps more startling is an idea from the Rocking Ahead workshop in Hawkes Bay – a tourism-related proposal where the bouquet of the region's wines could be promoted through some sort of computer-based aroma provider.

I am pleased to say that the initiatives that TUANZ has been involved in since that conference in Nelson last year, fit closely with the Government's vision for broadband and telecommunications.

As far back as the E-Commerce Summit in 2000, we said the strategy to develop the ICT sector had to be a partnership - the government and the industry had to work together.

TUANZ has been a strong and supportive partner in that strategy, and the government is matching that through a number of its agencies.

These are the: Ministries of Economic Development; Education; and Health, NZ Trade and Enterprise; the National Library; and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Private sector agencies include: premier sponsor Cisco Systems; Amos Aked Swift; BCL; Microsoft; Southern Cross Cable Network; TelstraClear; Walker Wireless; and Wired Country/Counties Power.

The focus on youth and the regions also has a natural alignment with Project Probe.

When deciding on the funding for Project Probe, we identified a risk that 10s of millions of dollars could be spent rolling out broadband to regional schools and communities, but it was possible they would not take it up on the scale we had envisaged.

We faced questions about whether the right sort of applications for business and other users would be available.

However the level of attendance and support at these TUANZ events is a clear demonstration that there is significant demand.

There are over 75,000 people with broadband service connections - the number is accelerating rapidly and as Probe rolls out and organisations such as Fonterra/Telecom announce they will be connecting their farmers, it will accelerate even faster.

In closing, I would like to thank TUANZ for its foresight and participation in the partnership, and once again thank the sponsors of this event who have made it possible.