Guest blog by Nicole Ferguson, CEO of REANNZ
If you live in New Zealand and want to connect to the Internet, you’ve got a few choices for who to go to. Some promise faster speeds, or a cheaper connection, or the most flexible plans, but there is one provider that you can’t connect to as an ordinary member of the public.
REANNZ, the Research and Education Advanced Network of New Zealand, isn’t like the rest of the telco market. It provides a high speed, high capacity network to a select group of organisations in the pursuit of 21st century science, education and innovation.
What does that mean in practice? It means that every University and Crown Research Institute in the country is connected to the REANNZ network, as well as institutes of technology, polytechnics, wānanga, government bodies and other educational or research organisations. It means that they get access to both commodity Internet (the same as you and I use) and a special research and education (R&E) “pipe” or “path” which lets them send R&E traffic faster and more reliably. It means that New Zealand is connected to a global scientific research network, and is no longer hampered by the tyranny of distance.
Big science has never been more important to New Zealand, with MBIE publishing its Science and Innovation System Performance Report in November 2016, coupled with the news that the Government will commit a further $488,000 to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project - the world’s most ambitious science and IT project.
The Square Kilometre Array
Once completed, the SKA radio telescope network – which will generate images and other information to give us insight into the beginnings of the universe – will consist of hundreds of thousands of antenna throughout the Australian desert, plus a further 2000 dishes in South Africa, producing huge amounts of data. In fact, if you take the total amount of data that is used globally in one day right now, the SKA will produce 10 times that, every day, just on this single project.
The SKA is just one (albeit hugely impressive) example of the many and varied global projects New Zealand’s research and innovation community is currently involved in, spanning a vast range of disciplines and areas. It’s also an excellent case for why investment in our local science, education and innovation sectors is absolutely imperative – so Kiwi researchers have the ability to participate in projects of this calibre, making an ongoing contribution to the global knowledge economy, and cementing our local standing on the world stage.
Why we need a research and education network
New Zealand’s ability to participate in the SKA (and other high-profile, global research projects) is largely dependent on having critical infrastructure in place to support data transfer, compute, storage and analytics. REANNZ is a quiet achiever on behalf of NZ, providing a key piece of this critical infrastructure; a dedicated, high-speed telecommunications network. We enable unparalleled international connectivity and data transfer for New Zealand’s researchers.
It is essential to NZ’s future as a technology enabled innovator that our national infrastructure continue not just to keep up with, but stay ahead of the game, when it comes to supporting innovative New Zealand research.
As Jamie Baddeley, President of InternetNZ, said himself in a recent interview when asked whether New Zealand should invest in REANNZ:
“Yes - absolutely it should be funded. All you hear from central government, here in New Zealand and in many countries overseas, is that science, technology, engineering and medicines, the STEM group, is where we need to be. That's where our future capability lies.
It's incongruous to me that you can, on the one hand, be promoting that as our future, and not, at the same time, be supporting the network which actually enables all of that. The two must go hand in hand.”