Rod Drury on NZ Digital Divide

A guest post from Rod Drury:

New Zealand’s Growing Digital Divide

David Skilling, the former head of the New Zealand Institute, used to say that New Zealand is running the risk of becoming “Fiji with snow”. Certainly from a technology perspective the digital divide between us and the rest of the world is becoming more apparent.

We used to be a first world technology country. Things happened and were available in New Zealand first, we Kiwi’s were always keen to try the new gadgets. But over the last couple of years this has changed. Being third class technology citizens, not only has an impact on productivity, but an impact on attitudes and innovation. Our daily technology world is less sophisticated than our digital counterparts in the US and now even Australia. The gap widens.

Take for example the Amazon Kindle eBook reader. It’s been available in the US for years and last year a global version was introduced that’s now available in Australia and Fiji, but not here in little old Godzone. In the US during a business meeting someone might say, did you read that book about …, While waiting to board your flight home you download the book on your Kindle, skim to the points and for the meeting the next day you’re engaging with your customers on the latest social marketing approaches. Slightly more interesting and relevant than last weekend’s Super 14 scores and the weather.

Vodafone has been hinting at Kindle being available in NZ for a year. Where is it? ’m past being angry, I now need to understand what is the hold up and can we help? We need New Zealand business owners to be armed with the same ease of access to knowledge that our global counterparts are.

Visual Voice Mail is another productivity tool that most people don’t know they need. Voicemail on my mobile is annoying. Unlike email, which can choose when to process, with Voicemail I have no control. When you turn your phone on and have 15 messages it may take 5 to 10 minutes to get through and write those messages down. Often I’ll forget to call back. Visual Voice Mail was released with the iPhone several years ago and is also available on the BlackBerry. It’s to voicemail what the CD is to the 30-year-old cassette tape – VVM allows you to see all your messages and dive into the one you need. It puts you back in control. How much time would our hundreds of thousands of small business owners and company workers around New Zealand save by bringing such a simple thing as voice mail into the 21st century.

Telecom and Vodafone need to make it clear on when this first world productivity tool will be available to us. hope Telecom will finally do their deal with Apple and competition will drive service innovation.

Finally, the iPad is the latest example of how far we have fallen. It’s out in the US this week and Australia later in the month – there is no time set for the iPad in New Zealand.

The iPad represents the next evolution in consumer computing. The first true NetBook for the masses, the iPad brings instant connectivity to all the resources of the Internet, bringing school text books and global discussions directly into your hand. The opportunities for software developers, for students, for grandma doing her email, are limitless. But in New Zealand we’re watching as the train leaves the station as people in other countries exploit the opportunities and feeling of wonderment as this new technology generation takes off.

We need to understand why the iPad is not in New Zealand in April. Is it copyright for eBooks? Is it the lack of a carrier deal. don’t want to live in a country with no iPad!

We need to make sure there is a plan to get us back to where we should be as soon as possible. don’t want my children to be left behind. I don’t want to be left behind.  Removing data caps in New Zealand is a good step but we need to ask the above questions of our service providers. We need to stop this divide.

Rod Drury is the CEO of Xero

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