CEO disputes research network briefing

KAREN has exceeded expectations, Donald Clark says

The CEO of Research and Education Advanced Network NZ, Donald Clark, says the KAREN network has exceeded expectations in its two years of operation, contrary to a government briefing that suggests the educational network faces significant funding problems

“REANNZ is arguably now the government’s expert agency for smart and efficient purchasing of broadband,” he says in a statement.

The research, science and technology briefing, prepared for incoming minister Wayne Mapp, says expectations of REANNZ becoming financially self-sustaining within four years are unrealistic and that the company is seeking an equity injection to ensure its long-term viability.

REANNZ, which the former goverment also charged with leading a tender to build a new trans-Tasman telecommunications cable, has failed to meet these expectations, according to the briefing, and is now seeking further funding. The amount of funding required has been withheld from the public documents:

"These expectations have been found to be unrealistic and the company is requesting a [withheld under the OIA sections 9(2)(b)(ii), 9(2)(i) and 9(2)(j)] equity injection to ensure its long-term viability, at least until 2015," the briefing notes say.

However, while Clark agrees that the original goal was too ambitious, and says talks are being held about the next phase of investment so that KAREN remains an advanced infrastructure asset for the country.

“We have come further, faster than any similar international network in our start-up phase and are well on the way to covering our daily operating costs,” he says.

He’s outlined the network’s milestones over the past two years:

“KAREN now has 56 connected member organisations and partners across the country. This is more than double than at the same time last year.

”KAREN connects all New Zealand’s universities, Crown Research Institutes and the National Library, and has piloted a network for all the nation’s schools.

”Membership is still growing, with the two primary research and education government agencies and many polytechnics now connected, as well as Te Papa.

”Five private sector organisations have also joined, and are experiencing the benefits of using KAREN’s advanced connectivity to deliver innovative content and services to their research and education sector customers.

”Schools participating in the National Education Network trial have reported it as a wild success. One school commented, “We’ve had a wonderful time with this connection” after being able to connect their students with leading global thinkers in the US and Hong Kong.

“They are even going to get their researchers into looking into some of the suggestions our students made," Clark says.

One of KAREN’s content and service partners, TelstraClear, has just launched an new service trial over KAREN – providing over 20 free-to-air television and radio channel streams to the desktops of KAREN members to support teaching and learning, he says.

”REANNZ established a video conferencing service in response to demand from members for new services over KAREN. During November 2008, members used the KAREN video conferencing bridge for 1200 hours, or the equivalent of 50 days. This usage excludes people direct video calling to each other.

”In November 2008, we reached a new milestone in the use of KAREN, with total traffic volume exceeding 300TB, or the equivalent of 60,000 DVDs. This represents a steady increase from 200 Terabytes of traffic achieved from July 2008.”

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