TUANZ National Broadband Applications Project ConferenceEconomic Development
I am delighted to see so many leaders of the broadband industry here to discuss a topic that is genuinely vital to New Zealand’s economic development.
Two years ago, in November 2000, the Government held the e-commerce summit.
At that summit the government committed to making sure that all New Zealanders can make full use of communications technology.
We want everyone to benefit from the opportunities it offers.
This is not an esoteric issue: It is one that will fundamentally influence our standards of living in the future.
It is particularly important for communities that could miss out.
It’s worth taking a moment to think about who those communities are.
They are children from homes that aren’t very affluent, where Mum and Dad might not be able to afford a computer with a broadband connection.
They are regional communities which could be left out as high-speed Internet connections are installed elsewhere.
As Minister for Economic, Industry and Regional Development, I am not even going to contemplate a future that excludes communities like these.
We want everyone to have the same opportunities as other New Zealanders.
We need every part of New Zealand to succeed.
In the past, governments believed that entire regions could be left to wither.
They stood on the sidelines while huge numbers of families struggled and were left behind.
Then they wondered why New Zealand as a whole was falling behind the living standards of other developed countries.
The Government’s vision for New Zealand is one where everyone has the opportunity to enter the winners circle.
So we have to provide those opportunities where we can, working in partnership with industry and communities themselves.
One of the major barriers to regional development, identified by the regions themselves is access to broadband.
Broadband is one of the major progressive tools we can use to develop our regions and industries.
In the budget this year the government announced we would spend tens of millions dollars to ensure that every remote community has access to high speed internet connections.
We’re connecting up communities by extending broadband into every school in New Zealand.
I understand that there will be a briefing on the PROBE project at this conference.
The project is now well advanced.
Requests for Information have been received and last week an announcement was made about the firms which will be sent Requests for Proposals at the end of this month.
Most communities will have broadband by this time next year, and all of them by 2004.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate several regions, notably Southland, Taranaki and Northland.
These regions have been working on broadband issues for a long time before we implemented PROBE.
But this Government is now working in partnership with communities and with industry.
Schools, individuals and businesses will all benefit from the project.
Having broadband in every community will help regions to overcome the disadvantages of being remote.
I know it’s no accident that this conference is being held here in Nelson.
The venue reflects the importance of broadband for developing the regions of New Zealand.
If we think about Nelson, for example, this is a region with a remarkable and growing creative industries sector.
On the one hand, the relative distance of Nelson from major centres helps to create the freedom to explore ideas –distance is a virtue for the region that it is successfully building on.
On the other hand, there is still the need to take those creative ideas to the market, and on that score, distance is a disadvantage.
The ability to connect to the rest of the world through high-speed Internet connections will help to overcome the disadvantages of distance.
The other opportunity that holds enormous potential is in the development of applications that exploit broadband.
This is what your conference is focusing on and I would like to take a moment to talk about the importance of creativity in the development of the broadband applications industry.
Nelson is not only important to New Zealand for the vibrant creative sector here.
It is also the home of our greatest scientist, Lord Rutherford, after whom this hotel is named.
In passing, I would like to comment that I have a vision for a New Zealand where Lord Rutherford is the inspiration for a new generation of brilliant scientists.
Another New Zealander, Alan MacDiarmid, recently won the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
We need to set a target where we create dozens more Rutherfords and MacDiarmids.
Imagine a New Zealand where there are hotels in regions all over New Zealand named after our brilliant scientists of the future.
Our isolation and our small size has meant we have had to develop a culture of coming up with our own creative solutions.
We can’t just throw money at problems and we can’t always bring in the big guns.
This has bred an attitude of thinking about problems differently, which in turn has led to brilliant scientific and engineering achievements, from Lord Rutherford to the Hamilton Jet.
It’s the same attitude that Academy Award winner Richard Taylor of Weta talks about.
Innovators like these have proven that New Zealand has a culture of freedom to explore new ideas.
It’s possibly one of the most attractive things about New Zealand. We give things a go.
We have a rich history of trying out new things – it’s the culture that produced Kate Sheppard and votes for women before anywhere else in the world.
It produced the world’s social laboratory, and the nuclear free policy, electric fencing, and America’s Cup designers like Bruce Farr and Laurie Davidson.
All of this relates to broadband applications because we need to bring that creative heritage to broadband and the future of hi-speed communication.
I would like to assure you that the government will work closely with industry to find ways to unleash the creativity of New Zealanders.
Our aim has to be to develop new applications right here in New Zealand and provide them to the world.
The ICT Taskforce has nearly completed its work in the field and it has looked at some of the barriers to growing the industry in New Zealand.
Industry New Zealand and the Ministry of Economic Development are working to deepen understanding of the sector and to look at what opportunities exist for investment and growth.
And Investment New Zealand is working to identify potential investment and market opportunities.
We want to be able to take applications developed in New Zealand to the rest of the world.
We need to work with partners from throughout the world on marketing, research and commercialisation generally if we are to leverage the maximum value.
The potential is immense.
I hope you get the opportunity to look at the Innovate website:
The site was set up when I hosted the Innovate event in Christchurch this year, with the aim of informing and inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs.
You can see the stories of successful New Zealand innovators on that site.
And the video webcasting technology being used there is one example of a promising application.
Who knows if maybe webcasting will displace television one day as the primary means by which we communicate.
Whatever the future holds, the government wants New Zealand to lead it.
In addition to rolling out broadband to every school and community, the government has worked on other important fronts in the telecommunications industry.
We passed the Telecommunications Act with the purpose of encouraging greater competition, more investment in the industry, and a better deal for consumers.
A new Telecommunications Commissioner has been established operating from within the Commerce Commission.
Key services have been regulated including interconnection with Telecom's fixed telephone network.
And the Kiwishare has been updated.
We recently passed the Electronic Transactions Act.
It enables electronic methods to be used to meet a huge number of statutory requirements for information to be in writing, signed, produced or retained.
The Act will come into force early in the New Year.
I expect the Act to create increased demand for sophisticated applications.
One of the most important achievements of this government has been that people are beginning to talk together.
In regions all over New Zealand, and in crucial industries, they’re working together to create a vision and to co-operate in tackling the things that hold us back.
So your enthusiasm is very gratifying, and it should give us all encouragement about the ability of New Zealanders to raise ourselves once again to the top half of the OECD.
The key to meeting that goal is the development of industries that boost economic performance in the economy as a whole.
Broadband applications are very much one of these industries.
Most countries are looking at broadband, its communication benefits and the applications it can support to enhance business and social well being.
Because of our geographical isolation, this technology is probably as important to New Zealand as it is to any other country.
Those companies who are investing in broadband infrastructure need to have confidence that they will get a return on their investment.
That means they need to know their new fast pipes will to be used.
Growth in the demand for broadband will be driven by our ability to design and deliver great digital content.
Our main mission has to be to harness the creative talent and energy of New Zealanders to design brilliant new content.
One of the greatest difficulties facing our economy is retaining our top-class talent and our growth businesses.
The work you are doing here today can make that job easier.
The more connected New Zealand is to the world, and the smarter we are at developing and using information and communication technologies, the better chance we have for a more prosperous future in which all can participate.
Thank-you for the chance to talk to you today, and I look forward to the innovative ideas that I'm sure will emerge from this event.