Despite facing a giant clean-up bill in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake disaster, John Key’s New Zealand Government has dug deep into its latest budget to fund ICT projects across the country.
Nearly $1 billion has been allocated to the roll-out of New Zealand’s answer to the NBN, the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) Initiative.
A total of $1.5 billion will go towards the construction of fibre to the premises infrastructure that will connect a projected 75 percent of New Zealanders over ten years. The government’s corporate representative in the project, Crown Fibre Holdings, has already contracted Northpower and WEL Networks to assist in the broadband scheme, and will be pursing further contracts now that the government has made this funding available.
“In the past month, the Government has finalised negotiations for the rural broadband initiative and will soon be securing deals for the majority of the ultra-fast broadband initiative,” said Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce.
While funding for high-speed broadband in education facilities was sacrificed in the pursuit of surplus in the Australian Federal Budget handed down last week, our trans-Tasman neighbours have handed $28.2 million to schools to connect to the UFB. This allocation will fund the extension of fibre from the school’s boundary to classrooms and more than 97 percent of schools will be connected.
Another $51.5 million was allocated to the Ministry of Education for the ongoing School Network Upgrade Project, to improve the internal cabling infrastructure in selected schools.
Statistics New Zealand was another big recipient of ICT funding. The agency will receive $58 million over four years to pay for a comprehensive update of its 250 IT systems.
“The extra funding will enable the organisation to transform the way it produces statistics. It will increase productivity and reduce the longer-term cost of statistics production,” said Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson.
Another $3.5 million will go to the implementation of ‘SmartGate’ technology in New Zealand airports, with the upcoming 2011 Rugby World Cup in mind. The system allows passengers to self-process, using face recognition technology to verify their identity against information stored in a microchip.
In keeping with its Australian counterpart, the New Zealand Government has chosen to pursue the integration of online services, to make interacting with government agencies easier for online customers.
This mirrors one of the key ICT concerns addressed in the recently handed down Australian Budget. In the Australian Federal Budget $157.6 million was allocated to the development of information sharing across the Human Services cluster of agencies, Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency.
In New Zealand, $27.6 million will be invested in the development of a single logon for a range of participating agencies, under the rationale that it the government will save in the long-haul by avoiding duplicated expenditure on individual identity verification systems for agency web-portals.
So far 11 agencies have elected to participate in the single logon project, including the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Department of Internal Affairs.
This year, Intermedium will produce the first ever New Zealand edition of the BudgetIT prospecting tool. BudgetIT NZ will provide searchable and filterable listings for each and every ICT allocations contained in the 2011-12 Budget. Our research team has gone through the papers with a fine toothed comb, so that you don’t have to.