Bronwyn Howell

Bronwyn Howell

Bronwyn Howell is general manager for the New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation and a faculty member of Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She is a board member and secretary to the board of the International Telecommunications Society. She was formerly visiting research scientist at the Helsinki University of Technology. Building on both her formal education in economics and public policy, and her experience as a practitioner in the information technology sector in New Zealand and internationally, Bronwyn researches, teaches and writes on a broad range of matters concerning the Information Economy. Her publication portfolio includes journal articles, book chapters, monographs, working papers and presentations on technological diffusion, intellectual property rights and the contracting for and pricing of information goods. In recent years she has focused on competition and regulatory policy, and the evolution of industry interaction in the telecommunications and information communications technology markets. An area of particular interest has been the comparative effects of different forms of competition and regulation on market performance, especially in small, remote economies such as New Zealand.
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Is outcry over government surveillance all bark and no bite?

In the wake of the WikiLeaks (Julian Assange) and PRISM (Edward Snowden) revelations, much has been said and written about the extent to which state-sanctioned surveillance of citizens’ data communications – not to mention the communications of non-citizens – is occurring. With all of this clamor it might seem reasonable to expect voters to express their indignation at the polling places. However, this month’s general elections in New Zealand may suggest that the public is not prepared to make government surveillance a top priority. To be clear, some of the public’s commentary on the implications of government surveillance is thoughtful and reasoned, such as the contributions of TechPolicyDaily contributor Claude Barfield. But much is a cacophony, using the latest ‘scandals’ to score points in perennial political battles. Amongst the political sound and fury generated on the issue are warnings that such activities threaten to undermine democracy itself. A recent example is the call by 500 leading authors – including five Nobel Prize winners – for an international charter to curb the activities of national spy agencies.
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Counting the costs and benefits of government fiber beneficence

When Australia’s $40 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) plan to build a government-funded Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network reaching 93% of Australian residences was announced in 2008, it represented the single biggest infrastructure investment in the nation’s history. By way of comparison, its $40 billion budget exceeded estimates for the contemporaneously-approved Gorgon Gas project, which when completed will be one of the world’s largest natural gas field developments.

For the Gorgon project, both shareholder investment...

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Galvanizing government IT projects

Yesterday, my colleague Ariel Rabkin outlined a number of reasons why the Obama administration’s recently announced formation of the US Digital Service and the General Services Administration’s digital services group fall far short of the structural reforms necessary to deal with the core problems bedeviling government IT projects.  Collecting a couple of small groups of highly talented technologists to act as advisory teams for government projects might look good, but overlooks some critical differences between the requirements of modern IT projects and the nature of the government beast.  Nonetheless, it is an approach taken in many other countries, including New Zealand, where a Government Chief Information Officer has been appointed to provide sector leadership and is required to approve all government IT purchases.
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Innovation sweet spot: When technology meets business

Last month, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council requested public comments on the upcoming update of the Strategy for American Innovation. The strategy “helps guide the Administration’s efforts to promote lasting economic growth and competitiveness through policies that support transformative American innovation in products, processes, and services and spur new fundamental discoveries that in the long run lead to growing economic prosperity and rising living standards.”

In the policy...

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How the Kim Dotcom debacle is sidelining issues of government-funded broadband infrastructure

For those in the United States who think that it is a good idea for governments – national, state, or municipal – to fund fiber broadband rollouts, a cogent warning comes from New Zealand.  Political governance processes are subject to popular politicking – which means monitoring and enforcing the performance of network subsidy policies can rapidly get shunted aside by other political priorities. Here in New Zealand, economic and political debate has entered an uncanny ‘twilight zone’ as we count down to the triennial national election due to take place on September 20. This is the time for the incumbent government to trumpet its successes, and for its opponents to take it to task for not delivering on past promises. Just the time, one would think, to put under the microscope the performance of the country’s government-subsidized fiber-to-the-home Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network.