An informal interest group is shaping up to address New Zealand’s broadband challenges.
The group consists of people who are passionate about broadband, says John Blackham, chief executive of software company Xsol and a newly appointed representative on APEC’s Business Advisory Council.
These passionate souls are, for example, David Skilling of the New Zealand Institute, HiGrowth’s Garth Biggs and The Warehouse’s Stephen Tindall, says Blackham. There is a growing group of people wanting to make the broadband revolution happen, he says. They get together and network, but there is no formal lobby group as yet.
Fibre broadband is such a fundamental communication method that economies that don’t have high capacity broadband will not progress, says Blackham.
“New Zealand has a problem,” he says.
Many people, even within government, talk about broadband as “content”, he says, arguing that there is no point putting fibre in because there is no content for the fibre.
“This would be like saying there is no point putting railway in because there are no trains, or there is no point putting roads in because there are no cars.”
Blackham suggests New Zealand should look to countries that have been successful in delivering fibre broadband, for example Sweden, he says. Sweden aims to have all government services available online by next year, and for that the country must be fully wired, he says.
We should also learn from what’s happening in China, he says.
Blackham was recently appointed as one of New Zealand’s three representatives on APEC’s Business Advisory Council (ABAC). At last month’s APEC meeting he started talking to Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, one of the world’s largest business-to-business internet commerce companies. We don’t even know about it here because we tend to look to the US, says Blackham.
Ma, and other Chinese entrepreneurs, are doing their IT in a completely different way, he says. “By going straight to the internet and developing what I call next generation software, Ma completely by-passed all the complexities of the SAP-world and all the complex systems we put in place,” he says.
“We busily talk about middleware and enterprise applications, and he has totally cut it out, gone straight to the net and produced systems that do end-to-end supply chain — better than we do.”
Many Chinese entrepreneurs are seeing IT as part of business, says Blackham, and not in the Western way, where business is beholden to IT, he says. This makes China a much bigger threat to New Zealand’s IT future than the US, he says.
Alibaba.com is an enormous web-based import-export marketplace for businesses looking to source materials in China and around the world, reports The Australian.
The company has 3.6 million users in 200 countries, and the site covers 30 industries and more than 5000 different product categories, according to the newspaper.
Ma has also built a Chinese version of eBay — Taobao.com — which dominates consumer internet trading in China. In addition, he has set up his own internet payment system, Ali.pal, which has 48 million customers.
Ma also bought Yahoo’s China business in 2005 and reached a deal where Yahoo took a 40% stake in his company, while Japan’s Softbank took another 28%.