Amy Adams Issue: Asia-Pacific I 2015
Article no.: 1
Topic: Bridging the Digital Divide in Asia-Pacific
Author: Amy Adams
Title: Minister
Organisation: Broadcasting,
Communications, Courts & Justice
of Telecommunications, New Zealand
PDF size: 448KB

About author

Amy Adams, Minister of Broadcasting, Communications, Courts & Justice of Telecommunications, New Zealand

Amy Adams was educated at Rangitoto College in Auckland, moved to Canterbury in 1988 and has been a proud Cantabrian ever since.

Amy studied law at Canterbury University, graduating with first class honours in 1992. Before entering politics, she was a partner with Mortlock McCormack Law in Christchurch, specialising in commercial and property law.

Amy is a previous member of the CDLS Property Law committee, the NZ Law Society’s Women’s Consultative Group and the Institute of Directors. Prior to becoming the MP for Selwyn, she was also the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of her local school.

Having been elected to Parliament in 2008, Amy served in her first term as Chairperson of both the Finance and Expenditure and Electoral Legislation select committees. She was also a member of the Justice and Electoral and Regulations Review Committees.

Following her re-election in 2011, Amy joined Cabinet as the Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister for Communications and Information Technology and Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery. In April 2012, Amy took over from Nick Smith as the Minister for the Environment and relinquished the Internal Affairs portfolio. Amy’s achievements as Environment Minister included reform of the RMA and the development of the first ever national standards for New Zealand’s freshwater resources.

Amy regained the seat of Selwyn in September 2014, receiving the largest majority in the country and has joined National’s front bench as the new Minister of Justice, Minister for Courts, Minister of Broadcasting and Minister for Communications.

Article abstract

The government’s successful programme to deliver fibre to the homes and businesses of New Zealanders in our 33 fastest growing towns and cities is making strong progress. We have partnered with private sector companies to roll out UFB, with the government’s $1.35 billion investment being at least matched by our partner companies. Essentially this will provide a comprehensive fibre network for New Zealanders at least ten years before it would have been economically viable for the private sector. 

Full Article

Today’s digital world offers huge opportunities for a country like New Zealand to participate fully in the global economy, despite our distance from major markets.
For everyone to benefit from ICT, affordable access is key. While mobile communications is greatly enabling socio-economic development, affordability and accessibility of ICT remains a serious barrier to sufficient progress in many parts of the world. The UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that broadband is unaffordable to nearly three billion people globally. With coordinated policy efforts, this can be addressed.
For this reason the New Zealand Government has made improving access to affordable, world-class broadband services a top priority, both in terms of international connectivity and our own, internal broadband infrastructure. This is particularly challenging in a country of just 4.5 million people who are widely dispersed across several islands, vast open spaces and numerous mountain ranges.

We’re improving access to broadband for ordinary New Zealanders by installing world-class infrastructure across the country with our Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and Rural Broadband Initiatives (RBI) and ensuring it’s more affordable by regulating the market and investing in initiatives to provide free broadband services in public libraries and schools.
One way we have worked to make broadband more affordable was to open up our telecommunications market to competition. New Zealand was one of the first countries to do this and it has served local consumers well by encouraging innovation and pushing down prices.
For example, the entry of two Degrees into our mobile market has led to many benefits for consumers as competition has intensified, particularly in the pre-paid segment. We regulate wholesale prices for access to mobile and fixed networks, to promote competition and to ensure prices are reasonable. We try to strike a balance between increasing the affordability of services for consumers, and encouraging investment in vital infrastructure that will drive innovation in the long term.
As a result, consumers are getting more value than ever before from their broadband and mobile plans. The price of broadband and mobile plans have come down enormously in the last few years. Consumers are getting faster speeds, improved reliability – at much lower prices.
A basic broadband plan today for $75 (phone and 40Gb data) would have cost $105 in December 2012, $129 five years ago, over $700 per month in 2005, and over $13,500 per month in 1999 [all figures are in dollars of the day, i.e. not adjusted for inflation].
Not only have retail mobile and broadband prices come down, consumers are getting loads more data, improved speeds, improved reliability, special deals, add-ons and discounts.
An entry-level Ultra Mobile $49 plan today would have cost $710 per month in 2009. A $19 prepay value pack today would have cost $237 per month in 2009, and only give 1500 texts.
New Zealand is well served by broadband and mobile. The prices we pay on our mobile and broadband plans compare well against the OECD. Once the UFB rollout has been completed, NZ will have world-leading ultra-fast broadband access.
As part of our drive to ensure better access to quality broadband we’re partnering with private sector companies and have made rapid progress in recent years in improving our broadband infrastructure. We are now in transition from a time when infrastructure was our primary objective, to focus more on how we use this infrastructure to the benefit of our citizens and businesses.
We’re also focussed on grasping the opportunities that the internet provides to connect to our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region. A number of projects are underway to lift our international connectivity, including Hawaiki Partnership’s proposed new international telecommunications cable. The cable is planned to link New Zealand with Australia and the United States, with the potential to provide links with a number of Pacific Islands. The cable will add more international capacity to meet the growing requirements of New Zealand’s research, education and innovation communities, as well as commercial traffic. It will also mean New Zealanders have a wider range of cable options, and is likely to bring further downward pressure on prices. It is worth noting, however, that the typical unit pricing for international connectivity has dropped 98.5 percent since the existing cable system was launched in 1997.
Within New Zealand, the “digital dividend” band of radio spectrum that was freed up by the move to digital television has recently been auctioned. Mobile phone companies are using this to build new, fourth generation (4G) cellular networks, meaning more than 90 percent of New Zealanders will have access to mobile broadband that’s up to ten times faster than today’s speeds, within five years.
The government’s successful programme to deliver fibre to the homes and businesses of New Zealanders in our 33 fastest growing towns and cities is making strong progress. We have partnered with private sector companies to roll out UFB, with the government’s $1.35 billion investment being at least matched by our partner companies. Essentially this will provide a comprehensive fibre network for New Zealanders at least ten years before it would have been economically viable for the private sector.
Around 536,000 end users can now to connect to UFB, meaning the UFB build is 40 percent complete. The rate of uptake is now ten percent and rising rapidly, as more people recognise the benefits of the increased speeds and reliability that fibre provides.
New Zealand is now ranked second in the OECD for annual growth of fibre subscriptions, with an annual growth rate of 144 percent, while 90 percent of New Zealand households now have access to the internet.
The government has recently announced that the UFB roll out will be extended to cover another 200,000 households and businesses. Between $152 and $210 million additional government funding will be made available, which will lift the total percentage of New Zealanders able to connect to fibre to 80 percent.
We are also focussed on the needs of rural communities and the importance of enabling them to connect to faster broadband.
Economic benefits from better rural broadband include the exciting potential for efficiencies and better on-farm management, based on precision agriculture. There are also social benefits, enhancing community connectivity and helping to attract and keep young people living in rural locations.
Our rural broadband programme uses a combination of upgraded roadside cabinets and wireless broadband delivered through cell towers to reach 90 percent of the New Zealanders in the areas not covered by UFB, and is due for completion by 2016.
Like the UFB programme, the rural broadband programme is being funded by a combination of government and private sector funding. This is enabling services and coverage to be provided in rural areas that would not otherwise be economic.
The government’s initial funding of $300 million, which is being matched by our rural broadband partners, has recently been extended. We plan to invest a further $150 million into rural connectivity, to extend both broadband and mobile coverage. This takes the government’s total investment in the ultra-fast and rural broadband programmes to around $2 billion.
Under current programmes, hospitals, schools and libraries in both rural and urban areas will receive fibre.
Telehealth has particular benefits for rural communities. Being able to video conference gives rural patients quicker access to medical specialists, without the need for travel, and this saves time and money for both the patient and the health system.
In the education sector, more than 2,200 schools across New Zealand now have fibre installed and ready for service. A school network upgrade programme has ensured that schools’ internal networks are ready to make the most of the new connections.
To help schools manage access to faster broadband, a new, dedicated and fully funded managed network has been set up. N4L (the Network for Learning) has been designed specifically for schools, providing safe, predictable and fast internet with uncapped data, online content filtering and network security services.
A report by the 2020 Communications Trust shows that 73 percent of schools have set up an ICT Strategic Plan to adopt and develop digital technology into their classrooms.
The results already being achieved are remarkable, with schools reporting that pupils are more engaged, their reading levels have improved, and absenteeism has dropped. Additional resources and training are being provided to ensure teachers are well equipped to make the most of the opportunities that digital learning provides to make learning fun, access the best educational resources, prepare their pupils for a digital future, and connect to other schools in other communities.
An added benefit of providing fibre to rural schools has been the potential this offers to share access with the surrounding community. This also supports students’ learning, and is particularly valuable in remote, rural communities or communities that struggle to afford access to the internet.
Community libraries are also being used as community digital hubs, providing free broadband internet service. A national network, the Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa (APNK) is a partnership between public libraries and The National Library of New Zealand. Since the network began in November 2007, over 140 libraries have joined.
Free internet and computing equipment in public libraries allows everyone to benefit from accessing, experiencing, and creating digital content. Access to this technology means libraries and their staff can build their skills and knowledge of the digital world and share this with library users.
There are also many local and community led initiatives in New Zealand that support bridging the digital divide.
Programmes such as Computers in Homes, are supporting families to connect to the internet which can make a huge difference. Providing in-home connectivity can increase children’s educational achievement and help to open up new possibilities for their parents’ employment.
That’s why the government boosted funding for the programme this year. The programme supports families in 19 targeted regions, based on their existing level of internet access, and has so far helped more than 12,000 families.
By investing in world-class infrastructure, funding initiatives to allow entire communities to benefit from broadband access, investing in and supporting schools to make the most of their broadband use and ensuring healthy market competition, New Zealand is making strong progress in delivering affordable access to the benefits of fast, reliable broadband and ensuring this is used to support better health, education, social and economic outcomes for New Zealanders.