Cunliffe’s Digital Strategy 2.0 to move beyond broadband

Minister delivers preview of digital rewrite

Communications minister David Cunliffe dropped a few hints about the shape of the government’s digital strategy rewrite last week while addressing an American Chamber of Commerce event in Auckland.

After detailing the history of New Zealand innovation and the progress of telecommunications reform to date, Cunliffe said New Zealand was on track and “positioned to drive into the digital future”.

He said when reform started, it was expected that private infrastructure investment would grow by $2 billion, both from new entrants and in “defensive” investment by incumbents. Government now calculates that private investment is well ahead of these estimates, at around $3 billion.

The Broadband Investment Fund will maintain infrastructure momentum, he says, and deliver benefits for high bandwidth users focusing on institutions, rural delivery and increased resilience in international connections.

Given that, the Digital Strategy 2.0, due for release before the end of the month, will talk less about broadband and more about what we do with it, he says.

“It will respond to the new interactive environment and recognise that connection is not enough,” he says.

The new strategy will shift the emphasis from the infrastructure enablers of digital transformation to the outcomes, including real productivity and consumer gains.

That will involve participating in global value chains facilitated by a new era of connectivity. New Zealand can either be a “world beater from home” or wither towards isolation, he says.

The Digital Strategy 2.0 will be about becoming leaders. It will include a plan to ignite interactive internet activity and drive productivity across the economy.

“ICT will be everything,” he says.

The focus will be on high-value content, technology adoption and support for increased productivity in small and medium enterprises. Cunliffe says high-value content is an area where New Zealand can lead the world.

Back on the subject of broadband, Cunliffe says the 2.0 strategy will aim for a step-change in performance, with open networks a core element to deliver competition and choice for consumers.

“That quite clearly differentiates the government’s approach from the opposition,” he says.

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