On the eve of a conference called to come up with uses for broadband internet access, one high-speed net advocate says ideas need to come from the bottom up.
Chris Matthews of the Far North Development Trust says it’s not a subject for academics and theorists.
“The ideas will come from those at the coalface, the people who will directly benefit from the applications."
But it requires a formal process to spark strategic thinking, to select certain focal points for the effort, such as health services, he says, and to combine resources from government, user communities and other stakeholders. He sees that as lacking.
But a TUANZ-organised event in Nelson this week could spark creation of new broadband applications. It brings together representatives of 10 sectors of the community--including government, manufacturing, agriculture, entertainment and news media--with the purpose of coming up with ideas to exploit the technology.
TUANZ chair Judith Speight is sure there are plenty of possibilities.
"There are thousands upon thousands of potential ways in which our society can turn the possibilities of broadband to our economic and social advantage," Speight says. "There's no limit to what our imaginations can achieve."
According to Matthews, such a process could be developed as a logical outcome of the public-private-sector cooperation that has already brought the broadband plans into operation.
“The existing partnership allows those resources to be concerted to take the ideas of users to the people able to develop the applications,” he says. “It’s not difficult.”
One of the first steps is awareness.
“The person in the street in Kaitaia, or the people in local government bodies hardly know what broadband is. Ask them ‘what do you want to do with broadband?’ and you’ll get a blank look.
“These people need to be taken to the well; they need to be given the chance to wake up and smell the coffee. I know I’m mixing my metaphors,” he adds.
IT Minister Paul Swain points to the efforts of the government's e-commerce action team and the forthcoming TUANZ event, in response to criticism on the broadband applications front.
But Matthews doubts that those arenas will raise all the productive possibilities or even the most important of them.
“TUANZ is an organisation of large-scale commercial telecommunications users, and Ecat, too, is concerned with commerce. This is not about trading; it’s about services.”