Ultra-fast broadband benefits extolled

Digital Community Trust chairman John Gallaher outlines the past, present and future of GigCity. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Digital Community Trust chairman John Gallaher outlines the past, present and future of GigCity. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Creating an ultra-fast broadband infrastructure for Dunedin will be as important for the city as building an electricity network was 150 years ago, Digital Community Trust chairman John Gallaher says.

The road to Dunedin winning the Gigatown promotion, what has happened since winning, and what lies ahead, were outlined by Mr Gallaher in a presentation to the Association of Local Government Information Management conference, which closed in Dunedin yesterday.

As a result of a high-profile campaign, Dunedin won Gigatown, a 2014 competition in which cities and towns competed to win a roll-out of ultra-fast broadband for their communities. Victory earned Dunedin several prizes, including three years of ultra-fast broadband at normal price rates and $700,000 for funding businesses and community projects.

''Gigatown shows what is possible when you capture the hearts and minds of a lot of people in a short amount of time,'' Mr Gallaher said.

Rapid progress had been made in the following three years, he said.

The construction of an ultra-fast broadband network for the city was nearing completion, and almost all GigCity's contestable funding had been awarded to businesses and community groups.

It was estimated technology services were worth $330million a year to the Dunedin economy, and rising, and had created more than 2000 jobs. Health, sports, the arts, gaming, finance, agriculture and the film industry were among areas that had benefited from GigCity; schools, charities and youth organisations had also received a share of its proceeds, Mr Gallaher said.

''It's not just about giving money to business. It's about putting money into communities.''

Dunedin's fibre network would be brought together in the next few months, Mr Gallaher said.

Construction of the fibre network was scheduled to be finished by February.

Thirteen Wi-Fi hot spots had been set up with a total of 15 to be completed.

Eduroam - a free Wi-Fi platform for education providers - was also awaiting launch.

''The next big thing for us is the next digital strategy for the city and getting that right,'' Mr Gallaher said.

''The key for us is to take this resource and take it to the next stage.

''We are now in a terrific place to position this city for the 21st century.''

Next month, Dunedin is to host a Co.Starters summit, a gathering of aspiring digital entrepreneurs. The Digital Community Trust still hoped to attract a digital conference to Dunedin.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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