Thought Leader: Content is king

There’s much talk about new broadband network for New Zealand, but not enough talk about new digital future for our country.
Politicians, business leaders, media, consumer groups, government agency folk – everyone is talking about ultra-fast broadband (UFB). How it will be delivered, when it will be delivered, and what in simple terms is it? The Government has committed $1.5 billion of taxpayer funds to subsidise fibre being laid to 75 percent of Kiwi homes and businesses. The UFB initiative, it argues, will help business productivity and the country as whole.
But, like most national building projects, the improvements in productivity, competitiveness and standards of living will come down to how businesses utilise the new technology to their advantage.
Even at the best of times, SME owners and managers find it difficult to sort out the IT fact from fiction.
And when the discussion turns to fibre versus copper and 100Mbps and ‘megs’ and ‘gigs’, many business people simply switch back to focusing on what they are good at – their core business.
What they really want to know is what’s in it for them. What will people use this new-found speed for? How will it benefit business?
I was recently in the UK and Europe and checked out what is happening there on the broadband front. Millions of people in northern latitudes are getting very high broadband speeds, through cable and copper lines, as well as fibre.
The real drivers of high speed internet look to be cloud computing and watching video over the internet. The pundits claim 90 percent of traffic growth on the internet in coming years will be video transmission – to homes and businesses – for both work use and leisure viewing.
Driven by video, internet traffic is predicted to grow 400 percent by the end of 2013 – that’s only 36 months away.
The old adage that content is king in the ether has never been more true. Content is driving internet access.
Consider this: In the UK, the BBC’s iPlayer radio and TV service currently accounts for between 20 and 25 percent of internet traffic. In the US, Netflix’ online TV and movies streaming service commands the same percentage of internet traffic.
Locally, keep an eye on iSKY – there is nothing more certain than that it will drive internet traffic growth.
But what about businesses? Surely video conferencing does not represent enough of business benefit to justify fibre?
In the near term cloud computing is how businesses can take cost out and improve productivity through the delivery of ultra-fast broadband. While the global players such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft are offering cloud-based services, it is the local cloud providers that can provide quality service, served and supported locally that’s designed for New Zealand business needs.
The unfortunate fact is our country is behind the rest of the world and we need to catch up. But it’s not just about laying fibre; we need to add value by how we use high speed internet to promote innovation in New Zealand.
We need to use it to improve efficiencies and productivity. We need to extract social and democratic benefits through better interconnected societies.
A faster internet will foster the ingenuity of New Zealanders to deliver better future.
As country we have so much to offer: we are highly educated; we speak English; we are youthful and keen for innovation, so we need to focus on our strengths, not fret about our weaknesses. We need to use the internet to improve our existing industries and build new ones. SMEs need to play major role in this progression.
It’s worth keeping in mind that of our many strengths one is we are relevant to the rest of the world because we feed people. New Zealand is global source of protein and produce, hence we should punch above our weight in capturing the attention of key markets such as China, Australia, Europe and the US.
But our SMEs need the infrastructure to do the job. The most important piece of infrastructure I believe is bigger and faster internet pipe. When that arrives, what will you do with it?

Scott Bartlett is CEO of Orcon.

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