Internet Thinking in Whanganui

Wanganui/Whanganui is a Smart City trying to harness broadband to benefit the community. The Whanganui Digital Leaders Forum with ten sector groups and chaired by the Mayor seems to be a great way to take up that challenge comprehensively.

But, it isn’t going to be easy.

To get a feel for what’s going on, I headed off to TechEx 2013 last weekend. This was the second year the expo was held, organised by the wonderful Marianne Archibald.

On the Saturday, at the rural conference organised by TUANZ, it became clear just how difficult it was for rural folks (those just outside the main city) to get a decent Internet connection. The frustration was apparent.

Takeaway insight: the right solution requires both the national scale of Chorus and organisations that have local community connections. There is a real opportunity for ‘number 8 wire’ solutions and community-led efforts to make things happen on the ground, one property/community at a time. However, these local efforts need the national and international connectivity that Chorus can bring.

On the other hand, in talking to a person from the LFC Ultrafast Fibre, I was told that 50% of the city’s build out had already been completed but uptake, both residential and business, remained low (as in hundreds).

So, on the one hand there are people desperate to get even a basic Internet connection. On the other, massive infrastructure spend to build a digital future. That’s where I think the Digital Leaders Forum is important- providing visionary leadership grounded in the reality of the challenges of a provincial city.

What the Council can do

That question was raised in my session. My rather inadequate answer was to echo the late Sir Paul Callaghan (build a place where talent wants to live) and to encourage clusters of innovation/creativity. I pointed out how even the OECD has noted the ‘problem’ of New Zealand having low value-add per capita.

What is a better answer? I don’t know but it is worth thinking about it more. There are some things that other New Zealand cities are doing well and insights from what other cities globally are doing. Maybe the Wellington Workshop at NetHui next month may provide better answers.

Internet Thinking (for ‘real’ companies)

At least part of the answer for Whanganui’s digital future is understanding and acting on the opportunities the Internet provides, not only for the ‘weightless economy’ but also for ‘real’ companies making tangible products and everyday services like banking and transportation.

That was the essence of my presentation. Slides are below.

In addition, if you’re interested, the video of the presentation (the first 2 minutes 20 seconds has poor audio, it improves after that, and is nice and loud from 4 minutes 40 seconds onwards):

Video streaming by Ustream

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