New Zealand
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Future Proofing Our Rural Communities - Work Still To Be Done To Close Urban And Rural Digital Divide

The Tech Users Association (TUANZ) supports a call for high-quality connectivity to be prioritised by the Government as a core utility, a newly published report says.

“The last few years have shown that high-quality connectivity has real value and is an essential need in today’s world. If there was any lingering doubt, the significant weather events of early 2023 made it clear that we need to invest in resilient connectivity for our rural communities,” says Craig Young, CEO, TUANZ.

“While the vast majority of urban NZ have been able to carry on without missing a beat, regional and rural NZ users have had mixed experiences at best or had to deal with being disconnected for significant periods.

“As we head into a period of infrastructure rebuild in large parts of the motu, we need to ensure that the lessons in resiliency we have learned this year are not forgotten. It is not simply a case of rebuilding what was there before, we must build back better.”

Insights from the 2023 Rural Connectivity Symposium (RCS) have been published by the Tech Users Association (TUANZ). The Rural Connectivity Symposium 2023 Communique highlights current efforts, challenges, future solutions and what’s next.

Key themes include:

Building on the work and investment to date, we urge the Government to treat high-quality connectivity as a core utility service and to prioritise it accordingly.

Our end goal should be to ensure that the rural experience is at least equivalent to urban in terms of affordability and capacity, recognising the requirement for further investment in infrastructure, a tech-agnostic mindset, and a multi-layer approach.

This end user approach should be supported by a change in how the “business case" for investment is viewed - with greater emphasis given to the socioeconomic returns of providing quality connectivity to rural, remote, and isolated areas of New Zealand.

The rollout of a publicly available national connectivity register remains a priority. This would offer users and providers a view of the best form of connectivity available

at their location.

Importantly, these actions need to be supported by a contextual focused awareness Programme designed to educate communities on the opportunities they may or may not be aware of.

“Solutions to rural connectivity challenges are not only about providing better coverage and capacity but about understanding and delivering on the broader connectivity needs of rural and remote New Zealanders. We still need to look at connectivity in the digital world more holistically in terms of affordability, use, skills, digital literacy, and value,” says Craig.

View the report here

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