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Technology or Taxation? 25 February 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Those crazy pommes appear to have been consorting with their Kiwi peers if this BBC report is anything to go by.

It seems as if traffic problems in parts of central London are almost as bad as those experienced in Auckland these days and, whereas our politicians have opted to simply raise taxes and build bigger roads, the Brits are looking to a hi-tech solution.

If memory serves me correctly, the prospect of fitting Kiwi's cars with GPS or other hi-tech systems so that they could be charged a toll when driving through certain parts of the city in rush-hours has been mooted here before.

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I saw this type of system in action when I was in Singapore about a year ago and I have to admit that, given the size of their population, the traffic densities were amazingly low.

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    However, I don't think it was the hi-tech road-toll system that can claim credit for Singapore's orderly roads. More likely it's their amazing rapid transit system -- a fast, scrupulously clean, and effective underground railroad that can get you virtually anywhere in the city in just a few minutes.

    In fact, I have real worries about the potential for abuse that a GPS-based system such as the one being proposed in Britain might offer.

    I mean -- do you really want "big brother" knowing exactly where you've been and how long you were there every time you get in your car?

    You can bet your bottom dollar that although such a system might be introduced with the sole intention of reducing peak-hour traffic flows, it wouldn't be long before it was used to catch and automatically fine anyone who was speeding -- even if it was simply that they exceeded the speed limit briefly so as to pass a slower car. Does anyone remember those empty promises made when speed cameras were introduced I wonder?

    Of course we could argue that such a system would only penalise law-breakers and that it might help cut the road toll and help solve crimes -- what do you think?

    New technology has a place in reducing Auckland (and London's) traffic woes -- but I don't tracking individual vehicle movements is the answer.

    Surely it would be better to encourage employers and employees to take up telecommuting and work from home -- or suburban telecommute centers. Although only a small percentage of jobs lend themselves to telecommuting, a reduction of just 10 percent in Auckland's traffic volumes would make a huge difference to rush-hour levels.

    Unfortunately, so long as DSL access remains the exception rather than the rule and while we have to pay by the megabyte for anything other than slow dialup or hog-tied ultra-slow flat-rate DSL connect then I don't see the idea flying anytime soon.

    No, there's little incentive to telecommute or even move out of Auckland altogether in the government's plan to hike petrol taxes. Another lost opportunity to further the country's knowledge economy?

    Who's A Sore Loser Then?
    If you want to see the most appalling case of dummy-spitting I think I've ever seen then you really ought to read this piece of grizzling by former ISOCNZ chairman Jim Higgins.

    What a whine!

    Clearly Jim was not best-pleased when his autocratic reign was overthrown by members concerned by the alleged impropriety that appeared to go on at the time and now he's doing his best to slag off those who have succeeded him.

    I'm sorry Jim, this little piece does you no favours at all and simply shows that you are not only ungracious in defeat but you also appear to adhere to the "do as I say, not as I do" methodology.

    And shame on Infotech for publishing such a biased and vindictive piece of verbal diarrhoea. My opinion of the Infotech section has never been particularly high but the publication of this piece, along with a blatant advertisement for Jim's company in the form of the attribution "Jim Higgins is managing director of The Networking Edge, a Wellington consultancy specialising in e-business solutions" really confirms the belief that this publication is deceptively "advertorial."

    Of course these are just my opinions, and I could be totally wrong. What do you think?

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