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NZ govt lifts target speeds for rural broadband to boost ICT

NZ govt lifts target speeds for rural broadband to boost ICT

By Paul McBeth

Oct. 6 (BusinessDesk) - The government has lifted its expectations on faster broadband speeds for rural New Zealand as it targets increased spending on research and development in the country's information and communications technology sector, which it sees as a key driver for export growth.

Communications Minister Amy Adams today lifted the targeted peak speed for broadband connectivity to at least 50 megabits per second for 99 percent of New Zealanders by 2025, up from a previous goal of at least 5 Mbps for almost 98 percent of the country under the rural broadband initiative. The remaining 1 percent would get speeds of 10 Mbps.

"Our use of, and reliance on, technology and broadband connectivity are increasing rapidly," Adams said in a statement. "It's vital that we set aspirational targets to ensure we keep up with this pace of change."

The government has already signalled plans to extend the ultrafast broadband programme, rolling out a fibre network to 80 percent of the nation's population from its original 75 percent target and has also expressed a desire to extend the rural initiative and improve mobile coverage as well, setting aside $360 million in this year's budget.

The announcement was made in tandem with the release of the update of the innovation chapter of the government's Business Growth Agenda's by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and is predicated on plans to beef up R&D investment in ICT, which was flagged at yesterday's inaugural National Statement of Science Investment.

The BGA report showed about 37 percent of firms in ICT invested in R&D compared to the national average of just 8 percent, and was "an important source of innovation and an engine for export growth."

The report sees upgrading New Zealand's communication infrastructure as "a crucial part of the government's agenda to build innovation" and will look to encourage hubs of activity to bring industry, education providers and researchers together to help strengthen the country's innovation infrastructure.

Among new projects introduced to increase uptake of ICT and make the most of the digital economy, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has been tasked with establishing a work programme to ensure the government is on the right track, encourage better use of ICT by small businesses to lift productivity, and work with the private sector to develop new ICT procurement models. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will review and refresh the country's cyber-security strategy, while Te Puni Kokiri will establish a Maori ICT development fund, and Statistics New Zealand will encourage the use of data for analytics and innovation through the Data Futures Partnership.

An MBIE report on ICT published in May showed the sector accounts for about 1.7 percent, or $3.09 billion, of gross domestic product, growing at an annual pace of 9.3 percent between 2008 and 2013.


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