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Speech To Launch Digital Technology

Speech to launch a demonstration
of third generation technology
Ellerslie, Auckland

Monday 21 February 2000
Embargoed until 4.30pm

Thank you for the invitation to launch the demonstration of this third generation technology.

First of all, I want to give apologies from my colleague Paul Swain. Paul would have loved to be here today but is recuperating from an illness.

He has a real passion for modern technology and the unleashed potential it offers us. I know you will find him an interested and motivated Minister to work with when he returns to work full-time.

However, as a result of filling in for Paul while he is on leave, I was given responsibility a few weeks ago for deciding whether or not to approve a temporary licence for Ericsson to demonstrate 3g mobile multimedia technology at work.

It was not a difficult decision to make – with officials' help to understand some of the technical terms and issues.

Like a lot of New Zealanders, I am amazed by the leaps and bounds made in technology over the last two decades, and I am excited about future possibilities.

I first entered Parliament 16 years ago. I didn’t have a computer in my office and although it's hard to believe now - MPs did not carry cell phones. In fact, my memory of cell phones then is that they were more like the old tape recorders that radio journalists carried until recently.

A couple of years later, we were issued with cell phones. They were as big and nearly as heavy as a brick, but we felt very modern. Now cell-phones are not only an essential accessory in many people's working lives, they are an important safety device and communication tool for a significant proportion of New Zealanders.

I first used the internet in 1993. Now I am a regular user, it is a well-used resource in my office, and I have certainly seen my family use it in a way that I did not come close to imagining in 1993. We've learnt to use the internet as business people, as consumers, as researchers, as cooks, and to complement our hobbies.

E-mail has dramatically changed many people's working habits and practices, including my own. As an opposition education spokesperson, I found e-mail a hugely effective tool for discussing ideas with the education sector as I was developing what is now the Government's education policy. I read and responded to notes that came through my computer and correspondents were kind about my typos and accountant's approach to grammar.

Now we are about to embark on the next step. In the same way that colour television was such a leap forward in the world of broadcasting; third generation technology represents an enormous advance and is likely to lead to significant changes in all of our daily lives.

Third generation technology introduces mobility to all aspects of the internet, communications and the media. In future we will be able to make video phone calls, send and receive e-mail and faxes, access all types of media and download information from the internet from a single portable device.

Video clips, stock trading, ticket purchasing, banking, or simply reading a map are just a few of the hundreds of wireless applications that will soon be available for users of mobile telephony.

I've been thinking about ways that I may be able to use this technology in my own job. The enormous amounts of written material I receive might be sent to my handheld device for me to read during spare moments. As Associate Minister of Finance, I could check treasury updates on the internet. I could read reports, media updates or Cabinet papers from anywhere in the world. I could follow events in the House, video conference with colleagues or my staff and read newspapers from home in my electorate. I could even follow the cricket or rugby while I was sitting in the House. It would be my duty to do so as Minister of Sport – although I think the Speaker might have something to say about that.

There is huge potential in the remote learning field.

Today's launch demonstrates that New Zealand is well positioned to be at the forefront of these exciting developments. We are a nation of innovators and New Zealand is an ideal market for development and testing of leading edge services for the Third Generation.

Ericsson has been using New Zealand as a global test base since 1993. Most new cellular products for the Asia-Pacific region have been tested in New Zealand. That position as a frontrunner in new areas of technology leads to investment and jobs.

One of the Government’s key objectives is to foster an environment where such innovation and job creation can flourish. Our policies in telecommunications, e-commerce, education and research and development are designed to promote the development of a new knowledge-based industry in New Zealand.

Ericsson's demonstration here today gives us a peek into the not-too-distant future. A glance at how our lives may change. A reminder that in order for our economy to flourish we will have to keep up with modern developments in technology.

And of course, the Government's current role in this particular step towards the future is to see that the 2 GHz auction goes smoothly.

In December last year, Cabinet agreed to delay the 2 GHz auction to enable further work on some of the competition issues which could potentially arise out of the auction.

We agreed in principle that there should be competition rules in relation to the auction.

I've undertaken further work, involving consultation with interested parties, and sought expert advice. Good progress is being made on resolving competition and other issues. I hope to announce a date for the auction within a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I'd like to thank Ericsson for the opportunity to glance at the future. In a few minutes, we will be able to talk while I am in the back of the 3g van so we can all witness how well it works.


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