Ensuring access to adequate internet and telecommunications services for regional New Zealand is a key issue for Industry New Zealand’s new information and communications (ICT) sector specialist, John Houlker.
“There’s talk of the digital divide, but there’s also the bandwidth divide,” says the former Telecom business development manager, appointed to the industry development agency in April. “To talk about the bandwidth divide is to say there’s not just a question of access, but also one of performance.”
In his role, Houlker, who before he joined Telecom was involved with New Zealand’s original internet gateway at Waikato University, will be pushing for adequate bandwidth for all, from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
Industry New Zealand is funding two studies on regional bandwidth issues, one in Southland and Otago and the other in Northland. The reports will be presented in September and, as well as identifying the regions’ bandwidth needs, will provide recommendations on how those needs could be achieved.
Houlker will be working closely with Trade New Zealand. “Our primary purpose is to achieve growth for New Zealand, but in many areas, the New Zealand market isn’t big enough to achieve growth.
“We’re focusing on infrastructure issues and facilities in New Zealand and Trade New Zealand on assisting with access to overseas markets. There are great opportunities overseas, but the question is ‘does New Zealand business and industry have the capability to address those opportunities?'”
Houlker was involved in the early development of the internet in New Zealand, dating back to the 1980s when the then-DSIR and New Zealand universities pioneered the linking of each others’ computers.