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Telecom CEO Urges Bridging Digital Divide


Telecom Chief Executive Theresa Gattung today told the Information Technology Association that the industry had a responsibility to help those at risk of being on the wrong side of the “digital divide.”

Ms Gattung, speaking at the ITANZ annual meeting, said the divide was between those who were participating in the digital revolution and those who weren’t.

“We are insiders to the revolution; we believe we will be on the right side of history. Every person who joins us strengthens us. And every person who stays on the other side will diminish us. Not just because they represent a lost opportunity, but also because they will be less employable and more likely to need ongoing support.

“If we as individuals and as a country can make the transition to the digital future, then we will all be able to make our own way in the world. As an industry we have a unique opportunity to contribute to our nation’s future.”

Ms Gattung said there was a risk some people and businesses would not be able to keep up with the speed of change. For example the United States has 4.7 percent of the world’s population but 57 percent of the world’s Internet connections.

The divide was not just about wealth, but also age, education, example and opportunity. She referred to US president Bill Clinton’s comment that information technology driving the new economy provided the tools to ensure no one was left behind – including those on the economic margins.

Ms Gattung said she firmly believed the free market produced the best results for the most people through lower prices, greater volumes, better quality and faster innovation. So it was important the industry continued to run successful companies.

However co-operation between private, public and not-for-profit sectors was boosting the speed and reach of change.

For example Telecom is contributing $11 million this year to schools through the Telecom Education Foundation, for information and communications technologies, curriculum development and online learning, classroom programmes and the Telecom Information Technology Roadshow.

Since 1993 it had contributed more than $56 million to schools through the School Connection programme alone and next year it was giving a stronger focus to the programme and removing the annual $9 million cap.

Telecom also supported 39 SeniorNet groups around the country and was the major sponsor of Telecom NetDay, helping give thousands of students better access to online worlds.

Ms Gattung said efforts also included Telecom’s half share in the US$1.3 billion Southern Cross cable across the Pacific, its $20 million investment in a new venture capital fund, and its strategic alliance with EDS and Microsoft to provide new online solutions for businesses and consumers

“I feel passionately that the digital revolution presents New Zealand with fantastic opportunities to secure our future. I feel privileged to be leading a company which has a central role in delivering that revolution.”


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