Lecturer in Software and Information Technology
New Zealand is on the verge of a huge change in Internet technology, the Ultra-Fast broadband initiative will see fibre networks extend across the country providing high speed Internet access to homes and our schools. In rural areas the Rural Broadband Initiative will provide access wirelessly in areas that fibre is uneconomic to deploy.
However local Internet access speeds and delivery are only one small part of the picture, New Zealand suffers from the 'tyranny of distance' which makes it expensive to bring in goods and services from overseas and to sell our goods and services into world markets. This 'tyranny of distance' also applies to our international Internet access. Currently all Internet traffic going overseas is carried on the Southern Cross Cable which connects to Australia and the USA. Pacific Fibre and Kordia both have developments underway to build new cables that will bring both extra Internet capacity and competition to the market.
Being able to make the most of the Internet requires that we have low cost access locally and internationally to high speed data networks.
Having high speed internet access alone is not enough. It is like having a motorway without having cars.
The big developments will be in the services that are offered over the internet. We have companies such as the Banks, Amazon, Google, Facebook and TradeMe providing services over the Internet.
What will new services look like? We don’t know!
Who will build them? IT Professionals. These services all rely on computing infrastructure, from servers to database systems and are software systems built by software engineers, with user interfaces designed by those with design expertise.
The Internet is not just about us as individuals using services, it is as much about organisations accessing services. Traditionally the IT department would have a computer room to run all the central systems for the organisation. Now this doesn't have to be the case, with cloud providers such as Google Apps for email, documents, calendars and others such as Xero offering other business systems such as accounting. These systems are all hosted in the cloud and accessed over the Internet. Building these cloud systems is the role of Software Engineers, but they work with Project Managers, Web Developers, Interaction Designers, Hardware engineers, and a whole host of other people to actually deliver the service.
Some of the biggest changes that we can expect will be in those industries and sectors that may not traditionally be associated with technology and the Internet. One example is the growing use of Precision Agriculture, the use of wireless sensor networks and sophisticated analysis software all linked together over the Internet to improve agricultural outputs. Precision Agriculture will be one way that New Zealand can retain its competitive advantage in the agriculture sector. Who is required to make the most of this? Farmers, Agriculture scientists, Software Engineers, Sensor Engineers, Statisticians, Designers and a whole host of other people.
In research things are changing due to technology, NZ university and research institutes already have access to a unconstrained high performance network, KAREN that connects them internationally with other researchers. On top of this network new ways of doing research using High Performance Computing, Research Clouds, High Definition Video Conferencing, Virtual Research Environments, Sensor Networks, and Remote Instrumentation are being used and experimented with. These innovations will spread through our schools, companies and homes.
Each new innovation that disrupts what has come before requires us to examine critically, what the technological, social and legal ramifications of the innovation are.
The recent debate in New Zealand regarding new copyright law shows that the Internet affects everyone. Politicians, Lawyers, Judges and the Police are all needed to enact, interpret and enforce that laws that govern how we use the Internet, and we as individuals are required to engage to ensure our voices are heard.
What's it going to take to make the most of the Internet? People with ideas, IT professionals to turn those ideas into reality, and everyone use them.