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Digital strategy – can we really lead the world?

The Digital Strategy

The New Zealand government’s draft Digital Strategy, was released recently. It states:

New Zealand will be a world leader in using information and technology to realise its economic, social, environmental and cultural goals, to the benefit of all New Zealanders.

An ambitious vision, and one that builds on New Zealanders’ self-belief as can-do people. But I’m not convinced the performance of the country’s technology providers supports such ambitious goals.

Hype vs reality

I knew my ISP was keen for me to sign up for their new ‘unbundled DSL’ service when the information pack, on expensive paper and complete with faux wax seal, was hand delivered to my front door by someone far more glamorous than the usual courier drivers. I’m too cynical to be taken in by the claim that the new service would ‘bring New Zealanders the ultimate communication experience‘. But over the last few months my broadband had been getting measurably slower and the email service less reliable – perhaps ADSL2 would fix all my problems?

You can probably guess the rest of the story – the recurring failure of various parts of the system, the constant calls to support staff to log faults and to check on progress, the lack of proper documentation about the system and its status. The details are too tedious to go into here. Suffice to say it’s 1 month later and I’m still disappointed in the service. My personal elearning capability and productivity has fallen away as I’ve become preoccupied with technical problems.

Technical support vs management

Overall, I’ve found the provider’s technical support staff to be very helpful and responsive in trying to resolve faults. Conversely, the management of the roll-out seems to have been very ad-hoc: the impression is of a process relying on trial-and-error and the competent fire-fighting skills of technical staff. Many times I’ve thought to myself: ‘if only they had planned this properly’ or ‘if only they’d spent as much on communicating information as they did on hype.’ Sadly, I’m sure this is not the first or last time I’ll have such an experience.

Being good at fire-fighting and fixing faults might make you a good follower, but it won’t make you a world leader. Innovation is extremely difficult in a culture focused on a constant round of short-term fixes. If New Zealand is serious about being a world leader in information and technology, it will need to radically change its management culture, not just upgrade the copper.

Some related news articles:

Internet nightmare: why NZ broadband sucks

The future of broadband in NZ