Exclusive: Amy Adams on ICT – Part 2

New Zealand’s first female communications and IT minister, Amy Adams, talks to Heather Wright about her long-held love of technology and technology’s benefits for New Zealand.

Of course, one of the government’s cornerstone projects – the UFB rollout – hasn’t always received favourable response.

It’s a project Labour leader David Cunliffe dubs ‘ultra-slow broadband because of the snails pace of the rollout’, and late last year the project took a hit over the Chorus issue. Adams, however, stands behind the project saying there were always going to be ‘a few hitches’ with a project of this scale.

She’s adament the rollout ‘is where we expected it to be based on modelling from other countries’ and ahead of Australia, and says she’s happy with uptake.

“It’s like when cellphones were introduced. There were only a few yuppies in Auckland carrying those bricks. The rest of of us scorned them. People asked what you needed them for. But in only a very short time, they became ubiquitous.

“If you look at uptake charts for any new technology, it starts slow. Initially people can’t see why they’d use it.”

Despite a lack of understanding of the full a lack of understanding of the full benefits of UFB, and she’s clear that UFB is not just about faster access to services we already have.

“We’re two-and-a-half years into an eight-year build. The retail offerings to excite the consumer are not here yet, so the big drivers aren’t here yet, but they will come, bit by bit,” she says.

“It’s not just doing the same things quicker. It opens up a whole different way to access entertainment, content and services.” She says that requires big changes for users and telcos alike, with telcos looking to provide ‘much more comprehensive offerings’.

Gadget queen

Adams, who studied law at Canterbury University, graduating with first class honours and specialising in commercial and property law before becoming an MP, is likely to be among the first lining up to try the new offerings.

A self confessed ‘gadget queen’ she says she’s always been quick to have the newest phone, or a new version of something. It’s a passion she believes she inherited from her father.

“Dad was a huge technology fan, always getting the first run Commodore 64 and so on. I’m someone who delights in change and new technology. Some people find the modern world and the pace of change distressing, but I embrace it. I’m excited about where technology will take us.

“I’m one of those people who would more likely forget my child than forget my smartphone,” she quips, before quickly adding: “I probably shouldn’t say that, should I?” Accompanied again, by more laughter.

“I’d rather cut my arm off than be without my smartphone and I’ve been in trouble before for checking the phone during romantic dinners!”

Adams admits she’s so used to having access to everyone ‘at my fingertips’, through phone, email and webcast, as well as being able to quickly check the Internet, that ‘it’s addictive now’.

“I’m probably my own worst enemy. I can turn the devices off, but I can’t turn my brain off,” she says. “You just have to manage your addiction.”

The Christchurch earthquakes put paid to plans Adams and husband Don had to not allow their two children to have phones until they were 14 years old.

“When the earthquake hit your first desire is to contact them and check on them. They were at boarding school and that ’14 years old’ rule quickly went by the wayside.”

Adams says her children have followed her in her passion for technology. “It’s my husband who is the technological desert in the family. It’s the kids [now 16 and 14 years old] who will show him how to work the irrigator from the smartphone or computer.”

Meanwhile, Adams’ love of her smartphone – currently a Samsung S4, though she has also been an iPhone user and still has an iPad – is matched by her love of her MySky.

“I couldn’t be without it. Being able to set it remotely from my iPad is life changing,” she quips.

To read Part 1 – click here

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