Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not represented as fact|
Hi-tech revolution and knowledge economy or not -- New Zealand has, and continues
to be reliant on the strength of its primary sector for much of its growth and
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
Of course, when we talk "primary sector," we're referring to the myriad of
things that happen far from Auckland's Queen Street or Wellington's
high speed fibre-optic loop.
We are beginning to hear a lot about how NZ has a digital divide that is
more related to where you live rather than how much you earn -- and those
who live in the country are all too often on the wrong side of that divide.
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So just how real is that utopian vision of hi-tech workers nestled in their
country cottages, communicating with the world using the Net?
First of all we have to examine the image being painted by those who provide
Hands up all those who have seen the Telecom ad that opens with a man and
woman waking in a sea-side house, far from the madding crowd. The woman
crawls out of bed and fires up her laptop so that she can teleconference
with the members of her company's board -- who are far away in the noise
and bustle of a city tower.
Oh Telecom -- how disingenuous!
I'd love to know how many rural seaside houses have two-way broadband
In fact, one can't help but wondering if this is possibly even a breach
of the advertising standards -- after all, Telecom are promoting a product
that they are often simply unable/unwilling to provide.
As many regular readers will know -- I'm a rural dweller and I've managed to
start and grow a number of online ventures (including this one) from my
remote location -- but that doesn't mean it's been easy.
For a start -- the very best speed I can get on my dial-up connection is
about 28Kbps -- around half of what you'd expect in the city. Even then, I
have to use a rather expensive modem -- cheap modems simply can't hold a
connection for more than a few minutes at a time.
There is a fibre-optic cable just 1.5 Kms away from my gate -- but I've been
told that it's unlikely I'll ever see a DSL service out here.
Sometimes the phones go out for a day or more at a time -- and it's almost
always the fault of the aging exchange which services this area. In fact,
when the power goes off for more than about 6 hours (that's another story)
the local exchange hardly ever resets properly without a visit by the
Of course thanks to the nice people at IHUG I also have satellite-based
broadband service which, although somewhat variable in performance, is usually
bloody brilliant! Unfortunately it too relies on a phone link for the outbound
traffic so if the phones are out -- then it's unusable too.
But that's where Vodafone comes in -- their GSM digital service is my
"last resort" connectivity. They now have better coverage than Telecom's
mobile service so I get a good, solid 9600bps connection using Vodafone which,
while not fast, at least allows me to carry on working when Telcom has let
me down again. Hooray for Vodafone!
Despite a bit of a push from government and services such as IHUG's
satellite system, the future for rural Net users is not good. While you
might be able to run small publishing operations such as the ones I operate,
you can forget all about running live streaming video or the like and
if you want reliability -- be prepared to spend money on a cellular
backup system -- if you're in the coverage zone.
But stop and think -- what kind of fool would even consider operating a
Net-based venture from the countryside when you have so many limitations
and need all this extra paraphenalia?
Hang on -- I think I've just insulted myself.
Save The Aardvark Fund
Yes, I have had several donations to the Aardvark fund and I thank those
who put their money where their mouse is :-)
If guilt is gnawing away inside you then there's still time to donate.
Just drop by and
hand over your loot.
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