Kiwi-born ‘gridfather’ tells NZ it’s 10 years behind

One of New Zealand's more distinguished alumni on the international IT stage has given the country a rev-up on both the research and national networking fronts.

One of New Zealand’s more distinguished alumni on the international IT stage has given the country a rev-up on both the research and national networking fronts.

Ian Foster (pictured) sees the competitive structure of the country’s research and academic establishment detracting from the co-operative atmosphere necessary in research today, and says the country is 10 years behind US and Europe in terms of building communications networks.

Foster is a senior scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory attached to the University of Chicago and professor of computer science at the university. He was in Wellington to talk to government and industry decision makers about New Zealand’s computing future, and addressed a gathering at MediaLab South Pacific on the necessity to join the international high-speed internet club.

Foster has been nicknamed “the gridfather”, as having done much to advance the cause of grid computing, though the concept, of course, was not his.

Competition among universities and CRIs for research dollars in New Zealand is “excessive”, Foster later told Computerworld, but he expresses hope that collaborative instincts will win through in the end.

There is a certain amount of national possessiveness evident in the US over data and resources, as a result of the “homeland security” mindset, he acknowledges, but it is too small to influence established patterns of scientific collaboration in a major way.

New Zealand must join the world scientific community fully, Foster says. The entry ticket is a wide-area network capable of at least tens of megabits per second, linked to the international high-speed network of universities and research establishments. He also criticised the absence of a New Zealand-based delegate at conferences which have attracted scientists from most other “advanced” nations.

Foster estimates that New Zealand has a 10-year lag on leading nations like the US and European countries in network deployment. At the rate at which the speed of networking is advancing, he says, this is equivalent to a 10,000-fold disadvantage in speed.

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