Kiwis are slow on UFB uptake: connectivity professor, Darl Kolb

"We are pretty good on uptake in the sense that we’ll pay a thousand dollars for a smartphone, but we’re a little bit behind in the infrastructure"

New Zealanders are woefully slow on Ultra Fast Broadband uptake, according to the world's first connectivity professor, Darl Kolb.

Kolb, who is a professor at the University of Auckland’s School of Business, said the real problem with the UFB project is that "people get pipes in the street and then can’t be convinced why they should get it".

“We are pretty good on uptake in the sense that we’ll pay a thousand dollars for a smartphone, but we’re a little bit behind in the infrastructure and are we building businesses that are writing apps and developing the business models and really making use of it in this new era.”

He said New Zealand's relatively slow speeds have also lead to missed opportunities for Kiwis to showcase their innovations to the world.

“On a personal level, I know myself that I've been listening to all the ads about streaming television and what not but in New Zealand it’s very difficult to get your head around that because it’s so slow at least where I live.

“We were in Cambridge [UK] last year, they had very fast broadband in our apartment at the College and it was terrific. For the first time my wife and I could open up our iPads and watch BBC or anything we wanted.”

When it comes to his job, Kolb said it’s almost like he’s teaching something that is about to happen. “I’m actually putting my gaze towards more what are the strategic implications [of connectivity], for example I’ve met with some of the telcos."

Kolb has taught MBA for 21 years in the University of Auckland School of Business. The Uni is now going to have a Graduate School of Management within the Business School where Kolb will teach.

“We have a collaborative teaching experiment with the University of Sydney. Our students are building products which are quite specific but they have to do it in virtual teams. They’re very tech savvy so that’s no problem but when you throw in a two hour time difference and add some national and cultural differences, and the challenge is to produce identical products in both countries.

“They using email and Skype and the media that we know about in business but the challenges are still how do we coordinate across time zones.”

Kolb said he was originally a sociologist so his interest is also in how people communicate over different cultures, languages and time zones in business and management. “Sleep is very important to us but the patterns that we think work best we need to re visit.

“If you get up in the middle of the night and reach for a device that allows you to get involved in something and then put it back quite easily, not like getting a car and driving to the office, then we may see some very interesting and regenerative approaches.

Kolb is originally from America and says he thinks there may be a lot of “hand-wringing unless New Zealand learns new ways to create value", he said.

"We’re going to continue to rely on dairy and tourism and opportunities will pass us by.”

Kolb said above all Kiwis are great travellers and have open minds. “Hopefully I will be able to advocate, encourage and inspire kiwis to do more in this space.”

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