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Budget 2005: The Digital Strategy

16 May 2005 Media Statement
Budget 2005: The Digital Strategy – Creating a digital future

Information Technology Minister David Cunliffe today launched the Digital Strategy, a practical and achievable action plan for ensuring all New Zealanders benefit from information and communications technology (ICT).

“This strategy is about creating a digital future for all New Zealanders whether they’re at home, school, work or in the community. The government will provide nearly $60 million through the Growth and Innovation Framework to implement the Strategy as part of Budget 2005,” David Cunliffe said at the launch at Parliament today.

“This includes $44.7 million of contestable seed funding over four years which will be available directly to communities and partnerships. We have set up the Community Partnership Fund of $20.7 million to support grassroots initiatives that will build ICT skills in communities and regions, and help create distinctive New Zealand material in digital form.

“The Broadband Challenge, a fund of $24 million, will be made available to enable affordable broadband roll-out based on competitive open-access principles. This fund will promote high-speed capacity in regional centres and support innovative ways of making broadband available to smaller communities.

“A further $10.4 million will support ICT productivity in businesses and $3.9 million will support the development of a cultural portal to provide an online presence for New Zealand’s creative sector.

“Overall, the government has committed to spend up to $400 million over the next five years to make the Digital Strategy happen. But this won’t be enough on its own to achieve our objectives. That’s why we’re providing new seed funding in Budget 2005 to encourage local government, economic development agencies and others to form partnerships and take action at the local level.”

David Cunliffe said the government was committed to creating digital opportunities by bringing the benefits of ICT to all New Zealanders.

“The Digital Strategy is about people and their ability to connect to the things that matter to them. It’s about making sure all New Zealanders are included by building their capability and confidence in using ICT. And it’s about lifting productivity across the whole economy, especially among small and medium-size enterprises, and thereby helping to grow the ICT sector.

“For the first time we are bringing the government’s ICT policy together to ensure we address the three enablers of this strategy – connection, content and confidence – at the same time.

“Connection is necessary but not sufficient, it simply provides the means. Confidence gives us the skills and a secure online environment. Accessing and creating content provides a compelling reason to make it happen. We need to address all three together.”

The Strategy, which is the result of extensive public consultation, also sets a goal that New Zealand will be in the top quarter of the OECD for broadband uptake by 2010.

“We must respond to two challenges – New Zealand has high Internet usage but low uptake of broadband. Our small market also inhibits investment and limits competition.

“A high-quality, high-speed infrastructure depends on having an open competitive framework. The government’s goal is to enhance competition between providers to promote investment, drive innovation and improve the quality of service offered to consumers.

“The Strategy includes a number of targets to ensure we reach our 2010 goal for broadband uptake. These include promoting and supporting open access fibre networks in 15 cities and towns by 2009, creating conditions for all major public institutions to have access to a fast (1 Gbps) connection by 2010 and implementing the Advanced Network to connect our researchers and universities by 2006.”

The Digital Strategy was launched at Parliament with a videoconference link to Christchurch’s South Learning Centre. The centre, based in the city’s South Library, is a prime example of a partnership between central and local government and the private sector that’s bringing the benefits of technology to local teachers, students and community groups.

The Digital Strategy is available from www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz as a full document and in summary form. Figures given in this release and in the Digital Strategy are GST inclusive.


Background

How will the government ensure that New Zealand achieves the goal of being in the top quarter of the OECD for broadband uptake by 2010?
There are a number of targets supporting this goal. They include:
- promoting and supporting open access fibre networks in 15 cities and towns by 2009
- achieving upper quartile broadband performance by 2010 through policies promoting competition and economic development
- implementing the Advanced Network by 2006
- creating the conditions for all major public institutions – hospitals, libraries and councils – to have access to a fast (1Gbps) connection by 2010.

Through competition and Project PROBE the government aims to have at least 95 percent of each region able to access broadband by the end of 2005 and satellite coverage close to 100 percent. Starting this year, the reach of Project PROBE will be extended from schools into community centres and rural businesses.

What does broadband mean in practice?
A broadband connection will enable most web pages to load in less than five seconds. You can speedily send or receive a batch of digital photos, browse electronic magazines, and file government returns online. Farmers can keep an eye on stock all round the farm and monitor the farm remotely. A fast broadband connection makes it quick to send video files. You can watch movies, send your own family video to friends and family, and use video telephony for personal calls and business meetings. Once hospitals are provided with fibre connections, you could have a scan done at Invercargill Hospital and sent at once to the specialist in Dunedin to look at in real time – just as if the specialist were present.

What is the Broadband Challenge?
The government is making $24 million available over four years to enable affordable broadband based on competitive open-access principles. The Broadband Challenge provides for fast broadband roll-out by supporting partnerships with achievable business plans and if necessary by facilitating partnerships between businesses, local and central government. The Broadband Challenge will promote:
- high-speed capacity for regional centres and their businesses – these can be termed urban networks or ‘MUSH’ networks as they cover the municipality, universities, schools and hospitals among other users
- innovative ways of making broadband available to smaller communities that are currently unable to access such a service.
Further details are available on the Digital Strategy website: www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz.

What is the Community Partnership Fund?
The government is providing $20.7 million seed funding over four years to partly fund initiatives by partnerships that will improve people’s capability and skills to use ICT and develop digital content. The seed funding is to support proposals that will primarily:
- build ICT skills and capability in regions and communities
- map communities’ ICT assets and identify priority gaps
- strengthen community projects through the use of ICT
- address issues of confidence, such as safety and security, in using ICT
- create and digitise distinctive and valuable New Zealand content.
Further details are available on the Digital Strategy website: www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz.

What is the National Content Strategy?
Unlocking valuable repositories of information, particularly older or historical material, or making new ones available, will add to the nation’s wealth of knowledge, and create a major new resource for education, cultural development and innovation. The National Content Strategy will consider two main issues – what to digitise and how to digitise. There are three main parts to developing the strategy – mapping the content landscape, developing a policy framework and building the necessary technical architecture for comprehensive national standards-based access to e-content resources.
For more information contact the National Library of New Zealand.

What is the Advanced Network?
The Advanced Network will link New Zealand’s universities and research organisations so that researchers can collaborate more effectively with each other and with colleagues around the world. It will provide extremely high speed connectivity between research and education users allowing them to share resources and exchange data with national and international colleagues on a par with researchers in the rest of the world.
For more information contact the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

What are the government’s plans for a Cultural Portal?
The Cultural Portal will provide a co-ordinated web presence for government cultural agencies, government-funded cultural organisations, and private-sector and community-based cultural entities and enterprises. The first stage will be to build the infrastructure of a web portal, as a common access point to arts, culture, and heritage enterprises and information. The second stage will set up a cultural events website within the Cultural Portal. The final stage will offer access to cultural products, activities and services. The Cultural Portal is receiving $3.9 million in Budget 2005.
For more information contact the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

What is the PROBE Extension?
The government will make $1.44 million available to extend the reach of PROBE from schools into community centres and rural businesses. Priority will be given to regions where community coverage has been harder to achieve. The process will be co-ordinated regionally.

When will the Budget 2005 funding for the Digital Strategy be available?
A Digital Strategy Advisory Group of senior people from business and the community will be appointed by 1 July 2005. They will be asked to provide advice on criteria for the contestable funding. The government will then issue the first call for Community Partnership Fund and Broadband Challenge proposals in September 2005.

How will the government monitor progress under the Digital Strategy?
The government will set up an Advisory Group of senior people from business and the community. This group will advise Ministers directly, giving them oversight of all the initiatives under the Strategy and making sure the various actions proceed in step. The Advisory Group will be appointed by 1 July. The Minister for Information Technology and an ad hoc group of digital Ministers will make decisions on direction and implementation of the Strategy. Each area of the Strategy will be championed by the Minister responsible. A full-time secretariat, based in the Ministry of Economic Development, will manage the implementation of the Strategy.

What was the consultation process for the Digital Strategy?
The Government released the draft Digital Strategy in June 2004 for public feedback and discussion. It consulted extensively with over 1000 people from community and voluntary groups, industry groups and businesses, educators and health professionals, as well as researchers and individuals. Nearly 200 written submissions were received.

What kind of feedback did the government receive?
The feedback strongly supported the Strategy and showed the government is heading in the right direction. People agreed the Strategy needed to focus on the importance of content, connection, confidence and capability, and on the need to develop all of them at the same rate. Many people felt strongly that there is an urgent need in New Zealand for access to affordable, high-speed networking. We agree and we are going to do something about it.

How does the Digital Strategy differ from the draft Strategy?
This final Strategy takes account of people’s feedback and focuses on what the government is going to do and how it is going to do it. It is a concise, practical, action-oriented blueprint with confirmed funding included within it. It establishes clear priorities and an implementation plan. It provides supplementary links to additional information, and also covers some new topics, such as broadcasting policy.


ENDS

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