Ru­ral users miss­ing out

Franklin County News - - News -

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.

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