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Newman makes the business case for broadband in health and education

The health sector could see big benefits from the introduction of UFB, which will also open up opportunities for "innovative" methods of teaching.

The health sector could see big benefits from the introduction of UFB, which will also open up opportunities for innovative methods of teaching.

So says Ernie Newman, former chief of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, in a paper for the Commerce Commission.

The commission today released the second of three issues papers relating to the uptake of UFB ahead of a public conference in February 2012. It is carrying out a study to identify factors that may impede the uptake of high speed broadband services in New Zealand.

He concluded that the health sector is yet to maximise the opportunities that the internet can deliver. Online shared care records for every New Zealander by 2014 would significantly increase demand for high speed broadband, however.

"While other sectors have adopted the efficiencies of the internet era, health is still at the beginning of its run. There are understandable reasons for this, but the sector globally needs to be galvanised to modernise its service delivery.

"There are pockets of excellence in many countries, but nowhere has the full transformative potential been anywhere near fully realised. The sector has a frustrating tendency to implement local pilot programmes. Everyone is enthused by these programmes as they demonstrate great potential, but then they peter out."

He said initial demand from the health sector for high speed bandwidth was likely to come from district health boards, medical practices, pharmacies and related health services. Consumer demand would pick up later as people become more accustomed to using the internet to help manage their health and wellness.

While there was already significant demand for connectivity in schools from students who use their own devices to do school research online, this would increase as more schools required students to use school-provided devices as part of lessons.

According to Newman, high speed broadband would open up opportunities for innovative ways of teaching, the revitalisation of rural schools, and better learning outcomes for all students – especially those who struggle with traditional teaching methods.

"New Zealand teachers are generally becoming as well qualified as those in comparable countries for the era of e-learning," he wrote.

"A great deal has been done over the past decade to up skill them, and most have been willing to leave their comfort zones and embrace it as learners. The same is not being said about the teacher training institutions, which are seen as behind the times and missing the opportunity to position themselves as thought leaders in this field."

Today’s paper follows a technical issues paper published on December 19. A final discussion paper will be released in February which will look at consumers’ willingness to pay for high speed broadband, and at content and applications.

Dec 19, 2011: Publication of Technical Issues Paper
Jan 24, 2012: Publication of e-Learning/e-Health Paper
Feb 7, 2012: Publication of Willingness to Pay/Content Paper
Feb 20-21, 2012: The Future with High Speed Broadband: Opportunities for New Zealand Conference
April 9, 2012: Publication of the Study Draft Report
May 4, 2012: Due date for submissions on the Draft Report
May 28, 2012: Publication of the Study Final Report