Ian Taylor is a passionate campaigner for extending broadband telecomms services to remote parts of the country, even at the expense of investing in health services.
He also gets steamed up about “how we under-rate ourselves” as a country capable of coming up with clever technology.
The Dunedin-based head of Taylormade Productions thinks the Otago Community Trust initiative to underwrite the provision of fast internet access to small towns is admirable.
But despite IT and telecomms minister Paul Swain’s constant talking about the subject, he doesn’t think the government grasps the importance of the issue.
“At the end of the day we’ll have a worsening situation in our hospitals unless we get this country on a different track,” says Taylor. He has been proclaiming his message on a speaking tour to small groups of chief executives.
Taylor’s claim to fame is that he heads an organisation which encompasses Animation Research (ARL), the developer of computer graphics applications made famous by the America’s Cup. Since May, he’s also had a stake in Terralink, the former state-owned digital map maker, which went into receivership.
The nature of the business he’s in has convinced him of the critical need for fast internet access. “We own Terralink — to grow that properly we need fast internet access from here to the world.” It was a need ARL was confronted with years ago, says Taylor, before telcos and other providers were offering services in Dunedin. “We made a conscious decision 15 years ago never to leave Dunedin.” That meant finding a local service provider to enable the company to send data via the internet to customers worldwide.
Taylor says internet access was provided by a small operator who developed “amazing technology” — a microwave-based wireless service. He gets annoyed that the pioneering service never flourished because its founder didn’t manage to get financial backing, while today’s broadband providers have seized the marketing initiative.
For that reason he doesn’t want to name the company to which ARL is switching for future broadband services. Nor does he care which telcos initiatives like the Otago one involve. But he believes extending broadband to schools and community groups, as that intiative does, will also put it at the disposal of local businesses.