New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently announced a Government investment of NZ$21 million to ensure more regional New Zealanders can access reliable digital services in their community.
The funding package will connect marae to the internet and establish Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns enabling local people and businesses to access digital services.
This builds on $80 million in funding already announced from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) – including the expansion of the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Blackspot Fund (MBSF) programmes, as well as projects to boost connectivity in Southland and on the West Coast.
Commenting on the investment, Prime Minister Ardern said: “Digital connectivity is a key enabler for regional economic development, however it’s clear that many rural communities are lagging behind in terms of access to internet and digital services. Connectivity is an essential part of doing business while also enabling education opportunities and enriching community and family relationships. Today’s investment will mean more communities will be able to enjoy the benefits of a digitally-enabled economy.
“In remote communities there are not always locations where local business people can access the internet or where local and visiting business people can come together or where tourists can access the internet. All New Zealanders should be able to have that access and the knowledge of how to use it regardless of where they live.”
The RDHs will offer services such as free Wi-Fi connectivity, co-working spaces and guidance on use of the internet for business purposes. The first RDHs will open in Northland with the next regional locations to follow within the funding available.
Regional Economic Minister, Shane Jones added that, while many of us take digital services for granted, the reality for people based in the regions is that these services are not universally available, stating: “The PGF funding for boosting marae connectivity will include physically connecting marae to broadband networks and providing technical support and training.
“Māori in particular are materially under-represented in ICT, so this investment will provide an alternative way for rangitahi to learn the skills a modern workforce needs.”
The Provincial Growth Fund will contribute $20 million towards the program, with the remaining $1 million funded from Crown Infrastructure Partners’ Ultra-Fast Broadband rollout budget.