In her opening speech to Parliament last week, Prime Minister Helen Clark signalled “significant Budget initiatives” to support the government’s Digital Strategy.
This is not unexpected, but anticipation of major funding has already been muted by IT Minister David Cunliffe’s statements last year.
Then associate minister, but clearly assuming ever more of the crucial aspects of the portfolio, Cunliffe emphasised that there must be realistic fiscal expectations and that the private sector will be expected to contribute some of the funding. “It is not the intention of the strategy process to bankroll a lolly scramble of central government programmes. In fact to do so would be contrary to the aims of the strategy,” he said, emphasising that private industry would also have to play its part.
Much of the funding for strategy projects looks like coming under the established Growth and Innovation Framework (GIF) but some will be new.
The PM’s mention of the digital strategy trailed in after praise for the Probe broadband networking project, in the “infrastructure” section of the address.
“Fast internet access is also a critical component of modern infrastructure,” Clark said. “The government’s commitment to Project Probe is bringing broadband to schools throughout New Zealand, and has hastened the rollout to regional communities.” But talk of enhanced internet capacity naturally came after mention of increased funding for roading development, public transport and power distribution.