Published: 09 April 2019
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has published the report ‘New Zealand’s high speed research network: at a critical juncture’ that it commissioned from Sapere Research Group as part of a review of options for connectivity for the research sector.
MBIE has published the report to support further engagement and consultation with the research sector regarding policy directions for digital research infrastructure.
The report is based on a review of international literature and reports and information gathered from universities, other member institutes, and New Zealand’s Research and Education Network (REANNZ). The process involved extensive engagement with stakeholders in New Zealand’s research community which was conducted through interviews, surveys, and focus groups with researchers, chief information officers of the member institutions, REANNZ staff and MBIE officials.
The report covers subjects including the value of National Research Education Networks (NRENs) in facilitating research data exchange, an overview of REANNZ including the services it offers and the infrastructure it has leased or bought and its financial position.
It also investigates the concerns of members, barriers and incentives to realising benefits of specialised connectivity in New Zealand, and compared REANNZ with international NRENs. The report finds that there is value in having a specialist network for the New Zealand research and education system. However, this value is not uniformly spread among institutions, as institutes engaged in highly data intensive research activities have a greater need for specialised connectivity.
The report also finds that REANNZ is currently in a precarious financial position, with costs rising to exceed revenues and poor member engagement.
After identifying challenges facing the sector, the report proposes a shortlist of options for addressing them, including: reducing REANNZ’s operational costs, reassessing REANNZ’s current infrastructure contract with Vocus against other national connectivity options, allowing member participation in REANNZ decision-making, increasing relevance to both current and potential members, exploring a merger with N4L and improving institutions’ internal network architecture to realise the full capability of the high speed network.
MBIE agrees with the high-level findings of the report, and work is currently underway to assess options for the future. Some changes have already been made to address these issues. The Government has appointed a new Board, and REANNZ has been working with its members to develop a new engagement model and pricing framework.
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