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Impact Committee Report 22/09/00

Proposal to Council September 2000

How to Bridge the Digital Divide:
The Internet in Small New Zealand Cities


February 2001


Road show to Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington, Waitakere City


Participants will be invited from mailing lists and constituencies supplied by local district councils and the Economic Development Associations of New Zealand, polytechnic staff, multimedia producers, local government, chambers of commerce, and ISOCNZ membership.


  • ISOCNZ Councillors and regional members
  • Hans-Jürgen Pohle and Herwig Heckl, Infoville Project of the European Telematics Applications Programme.


Professional workshop focused on needs of city administration, regional and district council, chamber of commerce, and small business. Half-day, 1-5PM (after lunch) with tea break followed by snacks, wine and networking. Sponsors may have exhibits and demonstrations. Press conference for panellists and local activists. Concrete takeaways for each participant. Welcome by Mayor and EDANZ official. ISOCNZ Councillor as moderator.


Begun in 1998, the Infoville Project is the largest European initiative focussed on the needs of smaller digital cities and e-administrations. Infoville has learned lessons that are very relevant to small cities and regional administrations in New Zealand. Its partners currently include: Regional Government of Valencia, Spain; Neumarkt and Oberallgäu, State of Bavaria in Germany; City of Meißen in the Free State of Saxony in Germany; Provincia di Torino in Italy; Hampshire County Council in England; National Association of Local Authorities in Denmark; and Municipality of Vara in the West Sweden Region. Within each Digital Site, the partners are backed by local government, local healthcare organisations, citizen action groups, public/private partnership organisations, major industrial partners, research centres and independent experts.


  • Internet Society of New Zealand (ISOCNZ)
  • Lotus (IBM) or Microsoft, Ericsson, and Siemens (sponsors of the European project)
  • Members of the Economic Development Association of New Zealand (EDANZ); local polytechnics and universities; City Councils
  • UNITEC's New Zealand Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship


  • New Zealand's Internet policies that affect cities; Global Internet governance issues
  • Building the Virtual City Hall. Complete Concepts including standard interfaces to all special administrational applications, European experiences of running projects (organisation, finances results), presentation of the new "Open Service Computer Interface" standard, which enables administartional transactions and online banking as well e-procurement for administrations
  • Building Virtual Marketplaces for SMEs. The concept of the virtual marking place (a Siemens / SAP project) this includes shops and malls, configurable ASP services for local SME's, simple supplier chain management
  • Video teleconferencing with Infoville cities, demonstration of Infoville's capabilities, interviews with high companies mentioned and European Union officials.


This is the type of event that the Society should be undertaking to fulfil its mandates as outlined in the Articles of Association:

2.3 To develop, maintain, evolve and disseminate effective administrative processes for the operation of the Internet in New Zealand.
2.4 To promote and conduct education and research related to the Internet and inter-networking.
2.7 To develop and maintain formal and informal relationships with the international Internet community, including the Internet Society.
2.9 To promote widely and generally available access to the Internet.
2.10 To liaise with other organisations, New Zealand Government authorities, and the general public for coordination, collaboration, and education in effecting the above objects.


What better roads were to rural communities last century, telecommunications should be in this one. Of more use than tarseal to people in a sparsely populated countryside is a telecommunications service which links them to the world. The term "digital divide" is being applied to a gap between urban and rural groups. It exists because of the poor state of the telecommunications infrastructure - dodgy telephone lines and insufficient cellphone coverage. There is also rapid development of on-line services targeting farmers with everything from their own farm production data, the latest research findings and weather updates to virtual supply stores where they can buy overalls to fertiliser. New Zealand needs to make the investment to ensure that country folk can travel as swiftly along the internet super highway, as they have along the tarsealed one. This workshop focus on how small cities in New Zealand can benefit from the Kiwi information superhighway.

Background on Infoville

Wall Street Journal article about Infoville

Economist , June 24, 2000

A local site for local people

THREE years ago, the people of Spain's Valencia region were rather behind with their computing skills and Internet experience. It was one of the things that put off would-be investors in the area. But today, thanks to a project called "Infoville", Valencia is on the way to becoming one of Europe's first "smart communities".

The government of Valencia, working with Oracle, a software and consulting firm, conceived Infoville not just as a local government website, but as a portal that would combine a broad range of services from both the public and the private sector. Juan Rada, who heads Oracle's service-industries practice in Europe, says that Infoville is a kind of local information utility which integrates e-commerce, e-government, online learning and virtual governance.

As well as dealing with government departments such as housing and tax-collection agencies, the portal also provides access to utilities, local bank accounts, schools, doctors' surgeries, garages, restaurants and retailers. With more than 260 services now available through the site, it is a little like an interactive version of the yellow pages. New services can easily be added, and will benefit from its centralised arrangements for administration and billing at virtually no cost to themselves.

Infoville was designed to be relevant to its users' daily lives, and to be simple enough for even the most technophobic to handle. To encourage its use, it was made accessible in a variety of ways: through not only PC s, but also kiosks in public places, as well as digital interactive television. The 100,000 citizens who are involved in the pilot were chosen as a representative sample of the population at large.

To disarm critics, Mr Rada makes a simple point: most of the activities people engage in take place within their local community. For example, 90% of telephone calls are local. He calculates that up to 80% of the information carried on a site such as Infoville is unique to the region. The pilot has been so successful that similar services will soon be launched in 35 more Spanish cities.

Another European city that set out to become a "smart community" was Naestved in Denmark. It was faced with a decline in traditional industries such as paper, steel and timber and had trouble attracting new ones because it is by-passed by main road and rail links, even though it is only an hour's drive from Copenhagen. To overcome that disadvantage, it built itself a world-class IT infrastructure based on high-speed cable and set about integrating Internet technologies into every aspect of local society - private, public and commercial.

One result is NaestvedNet, an Internet database that provides access to all regional services from a single site. Users can choose from, among other things, council services, traffic information, an interactive local phone book, a complete local business directory, tele-education, an electronic map, banking and online local shopping. A digital signature can be obtained by anyone who wants it, and so far about 20% of the population have got one. Herman Weidermann, the municipal director, says that digital signatures give citizens access to their own files and allow them to perform legal transactions over the net, despite Denmark's draconian data-transfer laws.

The mayor of Naestved, Henning Jensen, thinks that concerns about the digital divide are overdone. But to make doubly sure, six open data centres have been set up across the city to provide free PC and Internet access, as well as a distributed learning network for training and computing skills. Working with IBM , Naestved has set up a single basic system to meet the needs of government employees, citizens and private firms alike.

Neither Naestved nor Valencia have found it cheap to build their smart communities, but Oracle's Mr Rada says the costs have to be put into perspective. The cost of launching Infoville, he points out, has been about the same as building a single kilometre of motorway. If that seems too expensive, he says, Oracle offers to put up the money in return for a share of advertising or transaction revenue. "Don't invest" if you give us the site traffic, we will build a local information utility for you.?

© 2000 The Internet Society of New Zealand
Last updated 21 September 2000

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