Rural users missing out
ast week Rural Connect looked at the Labour Party’s Information and Communications Technology policy around the convergence of broadcasting and telecommunications, and the need for new regulations.
We considered that the need for regulation covering technical aspects of broadcasting using the internet no longer existed, leaving only content as an area to regulate.
We argued that content regulation could cover only censorship and access to internet sites which are areas where governments ought not be involved.
Like its policy on broadcasting and telecoms convergence, the Labour Party policy on the digital divide is blinkered.
The digital divide can be defined as the difference between those who use computers and the internet, and those who do not.
Labour’s focus is on the ‘‘can’t afford it’’.
Our own study of broadband demand in Franklin (March 2010) showed that a lack of internet use was a result of not having a connection, slow access, or no perceived need for access.
Unable to afford a computer and/or internet access was certainly cited but not as a major reason.
The Green Party policy acknowledges that ICT developments have ‘‘ . . . huge potential to benefit our society . . . ’’ but are not at all specific on how to harvest those benefits.
The Maori Party policies offer specific and actionable plans to address the digital divide but are focused on Maori.
When releasing the policy, co- leader Tariana Turia said: ‘‘Our 2011 Digital Technology policy reflects the importance we place on digital literacy and connection as an essential base for strong and resilient whanau, hapu and iwi.’’
The Maori Party plan is to establish digital hubs in communities and rural marae, expand employment opportunities in ICT, make computers available to those without them and to give a subsidy to those who opt to receive government emails.
The National Party remains committed to ‘‘ . . . ensuring New Zealand gains broadband speeds that are among the fastest . . .’’.
Good, but it seems, only for those living in urban centres.
The National Party policy aligns with that of the Ministry of Economic Development, to make 4G wireless frequencies available to mobile providers to ‘‘turbo-charge mobile broadband’’.
What is needed to ensure no one misses out on the digital age is for this commitment to be directed at rural communities as well.
When it comes to broadband, the major political parties contending the election in four weeks, either have no specific policy, or direct their policy at urban dwellers or Maori.
Rural New Zealand has simply been forgotten about.