The Digital Strategy 2.0 - does it go far enough?
The Government has unveiled the Digital Strategy 2.0 – a collection of new initiatives, targets and guidelines for the development of broadband and digital content out to 2015 and beyond.
The release of the strategy (www.digitalstrategy.co.nz) follows the opening up of the $340 million Broadband Investment Fund, a contestable pot of money available to finance schemes aimed at improving broadband access.
But is the strategy bold enough to allow New Zealand to benefit significantly from the digital revolution?
We asked the Auckland University of Technology authors of the recently released World Internet Project New Zealand report for their views on the revamped digital strategy:
Professor Allan Bell, director, Institute of Culture, Discourse & Communication and Nigel Smith World Internet Project NZ Coordinator
Addressing the digital divide:
"Digital divide issues are acknowledged as a potential equity issue with social repercussions, and it is pleasing to see a range of interventions seeking to reduce this. The commitment to fibre-to-the-premise is commendable, but it has the potential to either reduce or strengthen the digital divide, depending on equity of implementation."
Maori, Pasifika, Asian Communities
"The findings of the WIPNZ survey show that Maori value the internet highly. In view of this, we endorse the emphasis in the Digital Strategy 2.0 on Maori involvement with the Internet in view of their unique role in New Zealand.
"The Strategy does not deal explicitly with other possible social groupings such as Asian communities, refugees, or recent settlers. We note that the WIPNZ findings indicate that internet engagement measured in many different ways is higher amongst Asian New Zealanders than other ethnic groups. The employment and trade potential of this advantage merits further attention."
"It is pleasing to see specific and measurable goals included in the document. This will enable New Zealand to measure its progress in the future. However, the goals towards increasing capability are too narrowly focused on ICT practitioners. Capability is an issue which needs to be addressed in relation to all New Zealanders, for both economic and social reasons."
The Discourse of DDS 2.0
"It is also pleasing to see the emphasis on people as the initiators of change, rather than the technology per se. The internet and associated technologies are tools which can bring many benefits in different spheres of life. Impact on New Zealand as a whole is a result of how people use these tools, not the tools in and of themselves."
The Need for Research
"We commend the inclusion of research as a parameter in the Digital Strategy 2.0. However, the Internet is not just a tool for research, it should itself be researched as an important dimension of 21st century life in New Zealand, in order to inform policy and social practice. The World Internet Project is part of this effort, and we acknowledge the support of the Digital Strategy through the National Library, and of Internet NZ. We urge the ongoing urge the ongoing commissioning and funding of both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding the Internet in New Zealand."
The WIP report is also available for download from http://www.aut.ac.nz/research/research_institutes/icdc/
Keith Davidson, executive director of InternetNZ added:
"The Strategy builds on the strong framework developed in the first Digital Strategy, and adds a useful broader dimension focusing on the outcomes that digital technology can have on people's lives and impact on the broader economy. This is an improvement, and as a whole the Strategy remains a world-leading approach.
"InternetNZ does hold some concerns about the connectivity targets contained in the Strategy, regarding the targets set as inadequate to deliver the gains that true high-speed broadband allows. The Strategy aims to deliver broadband connections of 20Mbit/s or higher to 80 percent of users by 2012, and 10 Mbit/s or higher to 90 percent of users. True high speed broadband is only envisioned by 2018, a decade from today.
"Many countries are already deploying infrastructure that delivers connectivity speeds in excess of those this Strategy sets out for New Zealand. The applications and services this infrastructure allows will not be available to Kiwis unless our infrastructure keeps up. The new Strategy could and should have set world-leading targets, but it has failed to capitalize on the opportunity to do so."