There are some choices Whanganui needs to make about how it will use its digital infrastructure to create prosperity. Intelligent Community Forum co-founder John Jung has been in Whanganui this week and his message for the city is to take advantage of the opportunity created by its completed fibre broadband network.
The ICF is an international non-profit organisation which looks at how broadband can benefit communities.
This year, it named Whanganui as a Top7 Intelligent Community. About 400 apply each year. Over the past few days, Mr Jung has visited some of the businesses and organisations which were in the city's application. "The one thing that stands out for me is a combination of collaboration and leadership that came as a result of becoming aware of a need."
Mr Jung said Whanganui had recognised it needed fibre broadband to retain some key businesses and set about lobbying to become one of the first cities in the country to get fibre.
"A small crisis is too good to lose, so you take advantage of it and (innovation leader for the Whanganui District Council Marianne Archibald) and others worked in getting Ultrafast to put in the fibre in this community. But that shouldn't be the end of the road," Mr Jung advised.
The city now had to work out how it could be used to boost things such as tourism, industry, health and security.
Mr Jung believed Whanganui "has the bones for a much bigger, more important city".
"I just walked around with your urban planner and he told me the history and how, back in 1911, this community was positioned to be one of the key cities in New Zealand.
"Things happened, choices were made that kind of diminishes those things. But now a choice was made to actually improve on that and digital infrastructure is kind of a new enabling capability in the community."
But he urged Whanganui to act quickly.
"There's a limited time around which this community has a unique competitive edge.
"Make some choices now and don't look back to 1911."
Ultrafast Fibre marketing development manager Matt Sheehy said the just over 17 per cent of properties which could connect to fibre broadband had. He said there needed to be a push to get businesses connected.
"It's great that we've built the network but if people aren't utilising it there's not much point in having it there."
Meanwhile, Mr Jung was to join economist Shamubeel Eaqub, Whanganui Mayor Annette Main and Internet NZ chief executive Jordan Carter at a public talk called Daring to be Digital at the War Memorial Hall last night.