Government dawdles to future

The future is so close sometimes I can smell it. It summons us, across the distance. Whether we fight or submit, the future will be there waiting for us. All we can do is try to shape it, try to make it into something we can recognise and use, as if we had a choice in the matter.

The future is so close sometimes I can smell it. It summons us, across the distance. Whether we fight or submit, the future will be there waiting for us. All we can do is try to shape it, try to make it into something we can recognise and use, as if we had a choice in the matter.

I read a lot about the future. I read about nanotechnology, come to cure our ills and help us live forever. I read about the genome project and the pros and cons of genetic tinkering.

The space station is finally being built, after decades of aimless cold war antics. There is every chance that my children will outlive me by centuries. I can taste the future - it's that close.

Which makes it a little difficult to sit here and write about the infrastructure in New Zealand. I can picture an end to cancer and they want me to write about phone lines.

Between now and then there is a crevasse. We can probably hurdle it in the next decade, but it's so very deep. Slip and we'll be a victim of the future instead of a benefaciary.

The infrastructure is fundamentally important. We need its supports to get us across the gap to the future. Legislation, telecommunication, education - it's all vital and we're only just getting started.

Last year we defined the whole knowledge economy thing. The good news is you heard us and a number of you joined in the hue and cry.

The bad news is, these things take time. I am frustrated by the speed at which these things move. I'm used to the incredible speed of the internet. When we attend a product launch or announcement, we can write the story and have it online before the other papers have even got back to the office. It's a fantastic feeling and it's changing the way we approach news.

Government inquiries do not work this way. They have public submissions, draft reports and re-submission, then deliver their final version. The minister then thinks about it and make recommendations to Cabinet. Cabinet has to think about it and decide what to do. Then laws have to be drafted and debated and voted on in parliament. Then we get to take our first halting, shuffling step forward.

In some ways the year has flown by. It hardly seems to have started yet it it's October already. But in other ways it's dragged like a dead donkey's arse.

Sometimes the future seems very far away indeed.

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