Dunedin: The little city with Big Data dreams

by Craig Borley / 05 June, 2017
Digital Community Trust chairman John Gallaher describes Dunedin  as a poster child for what can be achieved with technology.

Dunedin has its head in the cloud.

Imagine Dunedin cast in a film and you may come up with a bleak character: moody and tempestuous, heavy grey linen dresses and savage conservatism.

Dunedin thinks of itself differently. As thousands of newcomers have set up home in the southern city, mingling with hundreds of thousands of annual tourists, pessimism has been replaced by bounce and a quiet, industrious feeling of success.

There are lots of reasons for that, but the city’s world-leading internet network is undoubtedly a major player. Two years ago, Dunedin took out the nationwide “Gigatown” competition, a Chorus-run promotion. With the win came an accelerated fibre rollout, discounted pricing and $700,000 in development and community funds, open to anyone with ideas on how to use the new technology to make their organisation or the city better.

For many, the gains have been significant. Small businesses realised gig speeds made cloud-based computing so efficient that expensive hardware had become largely obsolete overnight, reducing start-up expenses. Others saw new markets become available offshore, sending digital products across the internet hundreds of times faster than broadband speeds had allowed.

With high-speed gigabit services now being extended across the country, Dunedin has done its job as the poster child for what can be achieved with technology, says GigCity Dunedin spokesman and Digital Community Trust chairman John Gallaher. He thinks the knowledge such opportunities exist has changed the city’s mindset.

“It’s given Dunedin an understanding that we can now connect effectively with the rest of the world,” he says. “A lot of people who had great business ideas have said, ‘Well, I can come and do that in Dunedin… I don’t have to be somewhere else to do what I want to do.’ And in a lot of cases, existing businesses can be a lot more efficient and expand their businesses in ways they couldn’t do before.”

Six free gig-speed wi-fi zones have been opened to the public across the city, with another six on their way. A Gig Living Hub, launched in December and housed in the Dunedin City Library, is being used to showcase what the technology has already helped Dunedin achieve. “Some of the tech companies here are operating and succeeding worldwide,” says Gallaher. “So this shows people what is possible.”

 

 

This was published in the May 2017 issue of North & South.


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