Government could piggyback on rural fast net plan

Communications services to government and private industry, with investment by all concerned, could emerge on the back of a Wairarapa scheme to provide schools and community centres with high-bandwidth links.

Communications services to government and private industry, with investment by all concerned, could emerge on the back of a Wairarapa scheme to provide schools and community centres with high-bandwidth links.

Sources closely associated with the Wairarapa project suggest there is a good opportunity to aggregate the needs of various government agencies to provide online services, and call in the aid of private industry to ensure long-term funding in setting up and running the links, which government will use and pay for.

IT Association chief executive Jim O’Neill says his association has been pushing the private-public sector cooperation framework for about a year and says there are people in the State Services Commission and Treasury who are interested in the project.

One form of the scheme being floated is for private industry to pay the cost of setting up the links with government agencies using them on a “lease-to-buy” basis. The private consortium would recoup its costs within a defined period of about five years, after which the network would become the property of government. Such a scheme, says O’Neill, would allow government to set up the capacity necessary for its online services “without going through the exchequer and the capital appropriation process”.

A business model is apparently being formulated, as the e-government unit of the State Services Commission is pushing the idea of private-public-sector cooperation in setting up e-government facilities (see Government asks private industry to share risk).

“We [IT Association and associated IT companies] absolutely see this as an integral part of e-government,” O’Neill says. “The e-government effort has so far been concentrating on how people will deal with government through portals.” He says it’s equally important to map out how government deals with the people in supplying services with the help of electronic links.

“First we need to see how many government services there are that can be appropriately delivered in this way, then what contractual framework [between central government, local government and the private sector] is appropriate.”

No the other sources associated with the project will comment on this further development of the scheme. They refer all official comment to Masterton Mayor Bob Francis, when Computerworld tried to contact him.

The schools project — whose immediate aim is to set up eight e-centres for school and community digital communication — has proceeded on the basis of grants from community trusts, but more funding is necessary to allow it to continue in the longer term and be expanded.

The business model is scheduled to be complete by the end of this month when private industry and government agencies will be approached in earnest.

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