In November 2006 NSW Premier Morris Iemma announced that Sydney would roll out a free wifi network claiming that it would boost business in the city. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then in NSW politics and in May 2008 they finally announced that this grand vision, along with many others, was finally dead (reported in the SMH here). Instead of Sydney having ubiquitous free wifi the vision was wound back to making it available in public libraries. After all, city-wide schemes had crashed and burned in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco and we’re not financially irresponsible are we? In the wake of those decisions all I have to say to our weak kneed state leaders is: Whai Whai.
If you understand Italian go to www.whaiwhai.com and have a look at what they’re doing with free wifi in Venice, Florence and Rome. Residents get free wifi, tourists are charged a nominal fee.Â So what can they tourists do with all that bandwidth besides update their Facebook profiles? Whai Whai takes off in the real world where the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons left us on the silver screen. Imagine exploring one of these beautiful cities by taking part in a treasure hunt following a mystery that unfolds under the guidance of your mobile phone. Whai Whai has won an award for innovation in tourism in Italy and, with venture capital behind it, has plans to expand internationally. There are several similar projects in this space under development in Australia. It’s a shame the infrastructure just wasn’t in place to roll them out or even test them. As usual we’ll probably become a whai whai franchisee rather than an exporter of Australian IP. We’re left asking Whai?