National Libraries

Library project success points digital way forward

One of the quiet achievements of New Zealand's digital future has been quietly built  under the guidance of the National Library. The 'Aotearoa People's Network' is an initiative that grew out of the previous Government's 'Community Partnership Fund' and has been tackling the thorny issue of the digital divide by using the nations public libraries to provide all citizens with free access to high speed broadband internet connections.

The man behind this is Mark Lawrence, a former Royal Marine Commando who drives the project with military precision from the National Libraries Christchurch office. Mark has had to carefully evaluate the various flavours of broadband that are available around the country and select the best options in every situation.

As Mark says "I have built up good working knowledge of all the options and we're working with them all - copper, fibre, satellite and wireless and I've learnt a lot along the way!". And one of the things Mark has learnt is that Wellington's "Araneo Wireless" is a very capable and able partner who has bought reliable, high quality and cost effective broadband to libraries in Canterbury, Taranaki as well as the APN's biggest library in Hamilton.

Mark is also impressed with some of the ingenious engineering Araneo used to get links into difficult to reach places, in one case they had to put an antenna on a water tower and couple of hills to get from Cheviot back to Christchurch. And the biggest thing for Mark though is the quality of the connections "they are low latency, low jitter and the advertised speed is what I get in both directions, not a theoretical maximum like it is with some other providers".

Mark believes that the whole APN project has valuable insights to offer the Government in its plans to push faster broadband into rural New Zealand and that libraries offer many of the skills needed to manage this kind of infrastructure especially when innovative companies like Araneo are part of the solution.