Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The NZ Digital Strategy

I am still mulling over all the different pieces of last week's Digital strategy refresh summit in Auckland. It was quite an event. It was followed by a rapid trip to Wellington to catch the second day of the NDF [ National Digital Forum] and then yet another clash on the Saturday between the UnConference for the NDF, and the Kete development day, where different users, and potential users of the community repository software Kete got a chance to share ideas and plans. So where to start on all that.

First up the Digital Strategy Refresh. I need to acknowledge some potential bias points here. Being on the DSAG, [ Digital Strategy Advisory Group] I have been party to some planning sessions around this, so was well aware that broadband was going to be a major part of the agenda, closely followed by a focus on innovation and economic transformation.

I was also one of the people contracted to write a case study of the Tuhoe Digital journey. This ended up in the conference handout. I don't know where it is online. However, excerpts from the interviews I did with some of the brilliant peole from Tuhoe are here, on YouTube.

As for the Summit - I think the speech from David Cunliffe was a real stoater. He definitely served up a really aggressive target for all of the various broadband providers to get their heads around - see here for the main speech - but basically he said that ADSL2 and 10mbps second was not going to do it - and that we needed to be doubling that target - i.e. make 20mbps as the standard offer to most New Zealand communities by 2012.

Funding a new fibre backbone
There was also a really good discussion both on and off stage around the notion of what I'm calling a " broadband bond fund' - i.e. a public/private equity fund which would invest in a parallel fibre network around the country.

This would give people a return of 6% or 7% per annum, and would be aimed at low risk investors who wanted a utility type investment with guaranteed returns.

Open Access
The other crucial piece is that the network must be open access - i.e. the owners of the network shouldn't be a telco - just a utility - and that the services on the network could be provided by anyone prepared to pay for access. In short separating the service layer from the infrastructure layer.

This is essentially the model that Rod Drury has been advocating for a year. Moreover it totally fits with the kind of thinking coming out of the New Zealand Institute.

And, low and behold - the next day, the acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen gave a nod and wink to it by saying the government would be interested in hearing from people with interesting and innovative suggestions.

I know this is the kind of response politicians must make, especially when talking around the market sensitivities of the telco market - but hey - sounds like a great plan to me - an open access utility company which will provide an alternative fibre backbone to New Zealand. Lets do it!

Day Two - economic/cultural transformation
The second day began with a brilliant presentation from Sean McDougall, the Irish education expert who laid down a strong set of education challenges - or in plainer English /Irish - let's bin our 19th and 20th century education system and replace it with a collaborative - open learning co-operative model based on innovation and creativity. Sounds like jargon - too much of the old Irish - not a bit of it - total plain sense, especially if you want to actually do something around economic and cultural transformation.

Digital New Zealand
The second day ended on an upward curve - at least from me - courtesy of a really good presentation from Judith Tizard and Penny Carnaby [New Zealand National Librarian] who presented their double vision for the emerging space currently known as Digital New Zealand.

This is another sleeper project - i.e. just enough budget money to some thinking on getting New Zealand content online. If you want more, then stay tuned.

Watch again
The whole Summit is available as a series of video streams here.

In the meantime another post on the NDF and the Kete project et al anon. Plus more on the broadband map.


Anonymous said...

With the Kete system as well as the Greenstone system both developed in New Zealand, we are either at the forefront of digital library and community resource programming, or we are embarking on overlapping projects and not looking hard enough to make sure we are not re-inventing the wheel. Any thoughts on these two apparently complementary system development projects?

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