Second government network hits the skids

The KAREN research network faces significant funding problems, according to briefings prepared for incoming ministers, The briefings also flag further issues with health sector ICT.

The research, science and technology briefing, prepared for incoming minister Wayne Mapp, says Research and Education Network New Zealand (REANNZ), which operates the KAREN network, was formed in 2005 with expectations that it would become financially self sustaining within four years. At that point, the Crown's share in the company was to be transferred to the network's major users.

REANNZ, which the former government also charged with leading a tender to build a new trans-Tasman telecommunications cable, has failed to meet these expectations and is now seeking further funding. However, the amount of funding has been withheld from the public documents.

"These expectations have been found to be unrealistic and the company is requesting a [withheld under the OIA sections 9(2)(b)(ii), 9(2)(i) and 9(2)(j)] equity injection to ensure its long-term viability, at least until 2015," the briefing notes say.

News of REANNZ's troubles comes as another Labour government network programme, the Government Shared Network (GSN), is undergoing two separate reviews after departments failed to adopt it.

REANNZ's international connectivity contracts are due for renewal in September 2009, the briefing says.

"Although REANNZ may have sufficient cash to renew the international network (or extend current arrangements for a year), it forecasts that it will not have sufficient cash to renew the national network contracts that expire in 2010. Therefore, the REANNZ Board is requesting certainty in the form of a future capital injection from the Crown by February 2009 when it needs to go to market to renew or replace its international arrangements ..."

The briefing says REANNZ will not be able to renew any international arrangements if it does not have sufficient cash to renew the national network contracts in 2010. Officials are seeking further information from REANNZ to preparing a budget bid for Budget 2009.

"This budget bid is being considered within the context of an integrated approach to the government's broadband capabilities," the paper says.

Meanwhile, health briefing documents are retailing a more familiar story, informing the incoming minister that the current "fragmented and provider-centric approach will not adequately address the growing pressures on our health system".

"Patient-centred care requires the ability to seamlessly share information and plan and manage the delivery of care for individuals across various settings. This, in turn, requires changes in how we govern, design, implement, and operate the information systems used to manage health information and care processes within the sector. These changes are categorised as 'eHealth'. eHealth promises substantial improvements in how we integrate care processes and information around each person, family/ wh?nau and community," the paper says.

The ICT news is not all bad, however.

The Reserve Bank's briefing papers say system performance is robust and meets the Bank's expectations.

"However, we are working in an increasingly complex environment as the Bank's systems and infrastructure evolves. Internal network systems availability is exceptionally good. The capital expenditure programme for infrastructure projects over the last four financial years has mitigated concerns in regard to risks of some single points of failure and ageing technology.

"The payments systems network has a robust Wellington/Auckland alternating site regime that provides significant protection and ensures a high level of availability. However, there is also scope to further enhance automation and improve resilience."