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BUDGET 2014: Action plan needed to harness ultrafast broadband

Ultrafast broadband is like a new Ferrari. You know it has incredible acceleration and can achieve impressive high speeds. But do you have the ability or the highway on which to realise the car’s ultimate potential?

Research indicates broadband adoption boosts productivity by 7-10% but do these firms have the hardware and ability to ensure they capture every percentage point of this lift?

In the majority of cases, the answer would be no.

Technology is changing the way everyone operates, just as steam and electricity did for manufacturing and agriculture in the 19th century.

Just have a look inside your own home at the way your children are adapting and adopting the new technologies that are rolling down the broadband super highway. If your children are like mine, it may mean they revert to their rooms and communicate with friends via txt, Facebook, Snapchat, etc, and rarely talk to each other. 

But they are also quick adopters of the efficiencies offered – just look at the boom in online buying by this generation.

This is where the government has a role to play and the budget is a perfect starting point. Ultrafast broadband will lift productivity by up to 10% but there’s no support network to help businesses tap into this potential.

The government has yet to implement its five-point action plan to realise the economic, social and productivity benefits of much faster broadband. So an allocation of funds in the budget for these initiatives with education at the forefront would be a massive step forward.

Labour in its leaked ICT policy framework wants open access for all to discourage overbuild of UFB and sharing of investment risk, but there is little within the framework for SME owners. 

Action is needed now as the gains will not happen overnight. If things wait until the elections, it will be another year before anything meaningful happens, if it does at all.

Do we really want the Ferrari sitting in the garage, depreciating, that long?

We also need to take some responsibility ourselves and not just rely on the government. Businesses need to identify how they are going to benefit, not just wait for it to happen. 

The government is investing $1.5 billion in building the information super highway and businesses will need to use it to remain competitive and viable.

The “always on” culture means electronic communication is intrinsic to life, both at work and away from it. But while many businesses recognise this by investing in new technology that permits greater flexibility within working patterns, many working practices continue to demonstrate a traditional perception of work/life balance rather than a more “joined-up” approach. 

Ultrafast broadband will provide benefits but if a business hasn’t considered cloud computing, how to earn and sell more from their website and build better client relationships, then the gains won’t be there.

Paul Kane is a partner, privately held business at Grant Thornton New Zealand

Comments and questions

The best role government could play is no role. It should not be meddling in the market place. Economics 101.

I have yet to see what advantage I would get by getting UFB. I don't play online computer games, I don't use lots of graphics/video. I would have to pay for connection at the street, running cables down my ROW drive, installation of special box at house, and possibly re-running indoor cabling. I realise many (but not all) commercial entities would find it excellent. In other words my Impreza is all I need, and to buy a Ferrari would be a stupid waste of money