Here's broadband: now what do we use it for?

With regional broadband services developing, TUANZ and the telecommunications industry are trying to get Kiwis to think more deeply about what they will do with it when it arrives.

With regional broadband services developing, TUANZ and the telecommunications industry are trying to get Kiwis to think more deeply about what they will do with it when it arrives.

The “national broadband applications project” is backed with $75,000 of government money and a sum “low in the six-figure range” from the industry, according to TUANZ chair Judith Speight. It will comprise a November brainstorming session over two-and-a-half days among 100 industry leaders from 10 sectors, leading to a book containing the ideas generated, allowing them to be disseminated to the community.

The book will be written by 10 observers at the event, skilled in expressing the ideas in print.

The group is seeking “killer applications” for broadband, of the same order as email was for lower capacity internet use, says IT Minister Paul Swain.

“Demand aggregation” exercises in the run-up to the Probe broadband development project gave industry “some pretty clear ideas about what might happen generally” in terms of broadband use, says Speight, but the detail of specific applications that might light the fuse of broadband use within the whole community is still not clear.

The E-commerce Action Team (Ecat) had such potential applications as part of its task, Swain acknowledges, and as a result of this, small businesses are “doing well [in applying e-commerce], but could do better".

Every opportunity to promote broadband use in industry and the community is a valuable opportunity, Swain says. The exercise, he acknowledges, is “partly edcuational and partly promotional”.

Uptake of broadband even in the cities where it is currently available is low, Swain admits, though probably not any lower than in a number of other countries. The two chief retarding factors are a lack of appreciation of specific applications and cost. Probe is driving competition among providers which will lower the price of broadband services, he says; now the other half of the stimulus must be put in place.

The brainstorming will be exclusively user focussed, with representatives from:

  • culture, entertainment and sport
  • education
  • farming and horticulture
  • central and local government
  • health
  • news media and information
  • retail
  • rural and primary industry
  • tourism
  • home use
“Farming and horticulture” means the people who actually work on the land, says TUANZ chief executive Ernie Newman, while “rural and primary industry” encompasses the businesses that serve farmers, “the dairy companies, the stock and station agents and so on. You could argue that they should be thrown together as one sector”, he says. There will obviously be plenty of chance for them to interact. But we thought they were important enough to be given 20% of the arena.”

The view that normal commercial forces would come up with the applications, funding their own market research to discern and encourage need is too narrow a perspective, says Speight.

“What we are talking about here is the synergistic effect of multiple great minds, working for the greater good of the nation”.

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