KNOWING NEW ZEALAND
By Rebecca Wanjiku
What comes to your mind when you think of New Zealand? Kiwis? Rugby? Cricket? Maori? Or does it strike you like this well developed nation which is strict on importation that you cant even bring in a half chewed fruit?
Whatever you have in mind, it may be true. They are known as the kiwis, play cricket, they whip their opponents in most rugby matches and they perform the infamous haka dance after every win.
The importation laws are so strict that a Kenyan friend warned me to alert the customs officials about some candy I bought somewhere in transit. They got strict penalties for non compliance.
That may be one side of New Zealand but when it comes to Information Communication Technology, they have a different story.
They have three telecom providers but even in the conference hall, the internet connection is erratic, probably reminding one of connection in some of our countries.
The erratic connection may lead one to the question, “I thought New Zealand was way ahead in ICT development?”
No! New Zealand has some rural population that has no access to mobile phones let alone internet connection. Though the rural population is mainly the indigenous Maori, there are some white settlers too.
According to Karen Burns, a senior analyst with the government’s interoperable programme, they are working hard to ensure that the rural areas in the south and north islands is well connected with ICT.
“The government is trying to make it as easy as possible to access ICT. The government has an interconnected website where residents can access government services in one site,” said Burns.
The government has also set up special training programmes for Maori and other Pacific island residents to ensure they are well versed with technology.
According to Burns, the website is accessible in English and Maori languages and the people tasked with the online services can speak a host of other languages to make it easier for everyone.
New Zealand was originally occupied by the Maori before the British settled. A treaty was signed between the Maori and British that the locals would own land that was originally theirs, if they can prove the ancestral lineage.
This contract, Burns says, is still honoured to date though it was signed in 1840. She adds that if a person can prove that the land was unfairly taken and prove the lineage and ownership, the courts have a right to enforce it.