Better broadband links could help New Zealand’s ageing population, by providing in-home health services — and they also could help build communities, says IBM’s Riz Khalid.
Khalid was addressing last week’s IBM Forum 06. He says the economic health and competitiveness of a country is far from the only reason government should invest in increased broadband penetration. At a time when populations are ageing, with attendant increases in healthcare costs and growing anxieties about security, broadband links could do a good deal to build communities, he told the forum.
Information conveyed by broadband could increase the responsiveness of emergency services, as well as provide home-care monitoring of the frail and vulnerable. Readier access to government information was another bonus that came with better broadband, says Khalid. He also advocates widespread video surveillance of vulnerable facilities and crime-prone areas, using broadband technology.
And, within government itself, an “always-on infrastructure” improves the effectiveness of operations, he says.
It could also help government cope with hard-pressed budgets and a shrinking tax base as the population ages.
The latter suggestion is about to be put to the test in New Zealand, with the first client agencies now signing up to the Government Shared Network.
Broadband connections also raise property values and, consequently, contribute to local councils’ budgets, Khalid says.
As an example, Khalid points to South Korea, where the government and private industry have driven penetration of broadband to the point where the proportion of homes with broadband has risen from 1% in 1995 to 75% today.
As a result, online shopping now accounts for 12% of all retail sales in South Korea — Korean shoppers spend twice as much online as US shoppers.
Koreans are also avid gamers, and while online gaming may seem peripheral to government activities — and to the creation of communities — this is not so because gaming stimulates electronic innovation, says Khalid.
Convergence between business ICT and the kind of home ICT use being driven by the “wireless-and-texting generation” will result in the pervasive adoption of various technologies that will, in turn, link many levels of the community, says Khalid.