Wellington telework trial set to go

Wellington Regional Council is to launch a teleworking pilot involving workers living in the Kapiti Coast area who currently commute into the city.

Wellington Regional Council is to launch a teleworking pilot involving workers living in the Kapiti Coast area who currently commute into the city.

A range of individuals and the businesses employing them, including the council itself, will be canvassed for the trial, which is due to start next month.

The pilot will have two elements, encouraging people to work either from home or to use the existing Kapiti TeleCentre — an office set-up with a group of internet-connected PCs.

The pilot should show the potential for reducing congestion in Wellington city and for the reduction of vehicle-exhaust pollution if the concept scales up to a larger area and population, says WRC spokeswoman Karen Richardson.

“We’re aiming for between 40 and 60 people who might want to change, either to working at home or to using the TeleCentre,” says Richardson.

Funding of $140,000 has been committed to the pilot project by Transfund’s “alternatives to roading” division. Computerworld understands a larger project was originally mooted, but Transfund turned it down as too expensive. Richardson says she wasn’t sure whether they had or not.

“This pilot is likely to be followed by a larger exercise.”

Interest in telework is growing, says teleworking consultant Bevis England. As well as being involved in the Wellington region trial and a more slowly developing plan with the Auckland Regional Council, England says he is getting work devising improved management and workflow structures around teleworking, in organisations where it has developed informally.

The technology in use will vary according to which companies take it up and how their LANs are organised, says England; “it’s hard to predict at this stage”. Most network operating software incorporates a remote-access option, allowing an outside user to be effectively part of the LAN. But users may not need this “they may operate quite satisfactorily with a dial-up modem,” with the remote-access server providing basic ID-and-password authentication.

More intensive workers may use a leased line.

“I don’t think, with the number of people and companies likely to be involved at the pilot stage, we’ll need VPN technology,” he says “but that may be an option for the future.”

At the other extreme, workers may simply email data home, work on it there and email it back, England says, or even do it all via “Sneakernet” — physically carrying data back and forth on a diskette or CD between their teleworking and in-office days.

At the physical link level the Kapiti area is not short of high bandwidth choices; it was the birthplace of what is now the TelstraClear cable service, and also has Jetstream ADSL, “and there may be satellite alternatives available” provided by ISPs.

An Auckland Regional Council trial which started in 1998 with four participants has now grown to include 13. An opportunity for further teleworking growth in the council and businesses in the area is presented by the region’s “Big Clean-Up” campaign. This is devoted to reducing pollution, including that from cars.

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