Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Let's get everyone online, says expert

Tim Williams. Photo / Supplied
Tim Williams. Photo / Supplied

Ultra-fast broadband needs to reach everyone if it is to truly transform the country, says a visiting expert.

A former adviser to the British Government, Tim Williams, said the real prize of a fibre network will come if those from all age groups and socio-economic backgrounds are connected and taking advantage of fast internet.

"In building the next generation network, we must not modernise the digital divide.

"What are we going to do to upskill and enable those across New Zealand to access [fast internet]? We need to be really ambitious and get everyone online, not just 70, but 100 per cent, because then the real benefits in terms of public outcomes will kick in," he said.

Williams is in Auckland today to give a presentation based on a report he released on Australian and New Zealand broadband.

Debates on ultra-fast internet have been dominated by engineers and accountants and Williams said it was time for those who will benefit from broadband to get involved.

Leaders in health and education urgently need to join the discussion on how they plan to use the planned technology, he said.

"The bottom line is we need to have the conversation about what this would do to change the way public services will operate. The punchline is that we've all got a bit fixated on inputs, on technology, on the piping - what about the outcomes, what about health, what about education?"

Potential benefits included home monitoring for the elderly via the internet, a programme reaching 1.7 million people in the United Kingdom.

"They can live at home, live with their families, and be monitored by expert health professionals who don't have to visit. This is only possible through technology and it's only going to get more sophisticated," he said.

Williams said broadband is not just about computers and other sectors need to plan and act so they can take advantage of the scheme when it arrives.

However, despite saying policymakers need to get their act together, Williams spoke positively about the introduction of faster broadband.

"I'm optimistic that New Zealand will do this well because of the its scale and because, unlike Australia which as a huge amount of government and different levels of government, you've got a rather more simple structure," he said.

- NZ Herald

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