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Adams asks ICT industry to show leadership

New ICT Minister Amy Adams took to the stage at last month’s conference Commerce Commission’s Future with High Speed Broadband conference in Auckland, outlining the government’s four-pronged strategy for making sure kiwis get the most out of the government’s $1.35 billion Ultra Fast Broadband project.

Adams acknowledges that where her predecessor Steven Joyce’s primary task was ensuring the UFB network was built, hers is ensuring it is used.

"In many ways the preparatory work is already done,” Adams says."I see my role as making sure [UFB] is commercialised in a way that is most the most benefit to New Zealand.”

Adams says there are four sectors which will be the most important in ensuring uptake, due to their influence in the community and the government’s influence over them: schools, health providers, government departments, and business.

For schools, Adams says the government’s Network for Learning initiative, a dedicated school UFB network due to start becoming available in 2013, will set a standard for internet speed among students and educators."What happens in schools will flow into homes,” Adams says.

For health services, UFB will enable more cross-over of records as DHBs move to the cloud, as well as the uptake of more efficient service delivery methods, such as electronic monitoring and remote diagnosis via video.

Uptake by the government will be led by Adams herself, in her joint role as Minister of Internal Affairs.

As for business, Adams says she expects the ICT industry to show leadership in driving uptake, although if this doesn’t happen, the government is prepared to step in."We are aware that premature government action could stifle innovation,” Adams says."New Zealand is looking to [the ICT industry] for innovation and forward thinking.

”New business models based on ‘ecosystems’ rather than ‘egosystems’ are required in order to make large-scale investments in broadband technology successful, an international expert told the conference.

Gerd Leonhard, who describes himself as a media ‘futurist’, introduced the term ‘telemedia’ to describe the combined product of telecommunications companies and media content providers."In three years, all the major economies around the world will see telcos moving into content,” Leonhard says.

"It’s a new kind of capitalist system. The future is in interconnected business models – we have to think beyond the idea of who’s directly responsible for one thing.”

For example, some overseas telcos have bundled subscriptions to music streaming services such as Spotify into their pricing plans.

The challenge is to configure the models to make it easy for people to pay for content delivery; here, Leonhard sees a trend away from copyright and towards ‘usage-right’. This means creating value for consumers and up-selling them to premium content, for example via the ‘freemium’ model used increasingly in the gaming industry.

"People will be willing to pay if you find enough value and groom the up-sell.”

In contrast, attempting to block people from sharing is a futile venture, with closed systems doomed to failure.

Of course, the world's most successful technology company, Apple, is founded on a closed business model, but Leonhard says this is an exception built on the genius of Steve Jobs."Obsession with control inevitably leads to decline.”

Open systems have their challenges too, such as risk of addiction due to overwhelming volume, a tendency for consumers to skim the surface of content due to lower investment, and the issue of standards and transparency in data gathering.

"Personal data is the oil of the internet, and the new currency of the digital world,” Leonhard says."

But it can’t all be about commercial gains. We have to agree on a public transparency – but who decides?