Excellence Awards: NBAP, task force and metro LAN lock horns

A lobbyist, a metropolitan LAN pioneer and a government task force are vying for honours in the "most significant contribution to IT" category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards.

A lobbyist, a metropolitan LAN pioneer and a government task force are vying for honours in the “most significant contribution to IT” category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards.

They’ll know their fate on July 25, when the awards are presented in Auckland.

The Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ) drew attention to itself in 2002 by running the National Broadband Applications Project (NBAP). The two-day event, staged in Nelson in November, was a logistical tour de force, bringing together 300 prominent New Zealanders from 10 sectors of the community.

The purpose was to have them come up with ways to use the abundance of internet bandwidth the government was going to make available to the regions in Project Probe. Project Probe is yet to get beyond the letting of contracts stage, but should eventually mean far-flung parts of the country enjoy the same benefits of fast internet access available in metropolitan areas.

TUANZ chief executive Ernie Newman says he and the organisation’s chair, Judith Speight, and a Ministry of Economic Development official thought up the NBAP to give momentum to New Zealand’s adoption of high-speed internet technology.

“TUANZ recognised that as a small and solated country with a high dependency on international trade, New Zealanders have more to gain than most from embracing broadband internet technologies,” Newman says, “and a lot more to lose if we don’t.”

The NBAP gave rise to a book packed with possible broadband applications – some practical and some unashamedly far-fetched – which TUANZ is about to start spreading through a series of regional meetings.

Building more momentum across the whole computing and communications sector is the goal of the ICT Task Force, which last year produced a report with the ambitious goal of creating 100 $100 million IT companies within 10 years. If the target is reached, the task force estimates ICT will be contributing 10% of the country’s GDP.

The task force, led by SolNet founder Murray McNae, says one of the keys to hitting the target is encouraging commercialisation skills; in particular, helping New Zealand IT companies to get past the $15 million to $30 million size barrier. That will depend on lifting our leadership and international sales and marketing abilities, creating a talent and skills pool and getting access to capital.

The task force’s work so far has been endorsed by the Information Technology Association (ITANZ), which says the growth target “will look realistic if the industry adopts them quickly”, and the New Zealand Software Association, which says the report is “grounded in sound commercial reality”.

CityLink, the last of the finalists in this awards category, has proved that commercial reality doesn’t necessarily mean lots of capital. From an initial fund of $85,000, the company has created an ethernet LAN throughout central Wellington that has turned heads worldwide.

The network sprang from an initiative of Wellington City Council, but is today a commercial operation connecting hundreds of customers via optical fibre.

The company doesn’t provide internet services, but provides access to ISPs – 16 are connected to its network – that would otherwise be provided through the phone system.

As well as its Wellington fibre network, CityLink last year began deploying a wireless network based on Wi-Fi technology in public places in the capital CBD.

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