Gigatown and regional use of the Internet for economic development

Gigatown DunedinToday is launch day for Gigatown Dunedin. That means that from today, Chorus is making gigabit-speed offerings available to ISPs for sale in Dunedin. 

What I find really exciting about Gigatown is what it has spurred from the good people of Dunedin in thinking about how they're going to use this connectivity, and really get the full benefit of the investments being made. I've been lucky to see some of their plans as they've developed them, and they've sought our input too - you can see these here with their Plan for Success 

There's one area in particular I'd like to highlight; that's Part 3 of their plan, and how they intend to use this to enhance the Economic Development potential of Dunedin City. I'd encourage you to have a look yourself. I see some excellent ideas here about how businesses can be encouraged to make better use of the Internet, as well as how they can stimulate the creation of new, Internet-based businesses. There's the Digital Ambassadors Programme. This involves mentoring and building tailored action plans to help businesses with Internet adoption; an idea like this has the potential to increase productivity, profitability and efficiency in these businesses. Likewise, the Gig-challenge, designed to encourage the creation of new business specifically tailored to take advantage of gigabit-connectivity, sound like cool opportunities to me. I really look forward to watching how Dunedin does with these initiatives, and working with them through InternetNZ on refining this plan from here.  

But this also has me thinking in a wider sense. One of the benefits of the Gigatown project was that it encouraged a range of communities to think deeply about how they would utilise connectivity in their area. The five Gigatown finalists - Dunedin, Gisborne, Timaru, Nelson and Wanaka (btw, big ups to the South Island here right?) - all completed detailed plans for how they would use gigabit connectivity to benefit their communities. I hope that these plans have not gone to waste in light of only Dunedin being a winner of this initiative.  

I think there's a lesson from Gigatown; there is a lot of untapped potential in our local communities about how we can get maximum benefit from enhanced connectivity in New Zealand.* Dunedin and the other four finalists have shown the way here, in developing plans that not only help enhance the economic development potential of the Internet, but also the many other productive and positive benefits of better Internet in New Zealand. 

What I am thinking about is what InternetNZ can do to build off this. I think there's an as-yet-untapped opportunity to encourage local councils around New Zealand to create plans that can dig out the best local uses of improved Internet. Yes-  most of the bigger cities in New Zealand have been thinking about this for some time, and some regional communities are already doing this - Whanganui for example; Nelson too. But there are plenty of communities out there that could use some help, encouragement and inspiration to build plans for their communities. After all, locally led solutions to great Internet use are clearly out there, and I would like us to have a role in fostering those.

The big question is how - that's something that I'm thinking about in terms of next year's business plan. I think that partnerships with the likes of LGNZ are a good way forward; guides that we can help create to give these Councils advice on developing digital strategies; or maybe even case studies that we can highlight.  

I'm sure there are other ideas too, and I would love to hear them! How can we encourage local communities to think about how to utilise connectivity. Should InternetNZ be focussing on this - and if so, how? 


* It goes without saying that I realise that not everywhere has enhanced connectivity, and we still need to do plenty of work as a nation to build out better network access to everyone in New Zealand. That's a topic for a different blog post.


Image courtesy of gigatowndunedin at Flickr