How will Labour's IT policies affect business?

The Labour Party will form the core of the next government, but just what are its policies on IT and how will they affect New Zealand companies?

The Labour Party will form the core of the next government, but just what are its policies on IT and how will they affect New Zealand companies?

"Economic growth doesn't just happen. It occurs through the hard work of people and businesses. Labour rejects the ideology that says government should just leave it all to the 'market'," says Labour's policy paper on industrial development.

With that as the basis, Labour says it will allow all Research and Development expenditure to be fully expensed in the year of investment as well as accelerating the depreciation regime for new investment in technology.

That should help companies develop new technologies more quickly and also write off the cost of buying IT faster. Labour will also "promote Technology New Zealand's programmes ... and ensure funding for this scheme is demand driven".

Labour will also increase the "state's financial investment" in research, science and technology to help increase overall Research and Development expenditure in New Zealand. It is committed to investing 0.8% of GDP to Research and Development by 2010 as well as allowing Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) to reinvest all of their profits into Research and Development.

Education is another key area that will affect IT companies - and Labour has big plans to help boost the number of students getting into the sciences, maths and IT through "bonded scholarships". It will also establish a pilot scholarship programme to encourage postgraduate study in areas where skills are short.

E-commerce is one area in which Labour intends to be a "key enabler". It will develop a "single window" to government, both central and local, so all users can access government departments directly via the Web.

On top of this it will instigate an e-commerce purchasing plan across all government departments requiring any company dealing with the Industrial Supplies Office (ISO) to do so electronically. It will "accelerate the reform of legislation targeted at the facilitating e-commerce" and will push for a public debate on the role of digital signatures in New Zealand.

The infrastructure will come under increased scrutiny under a Labour government. The telecommunications industry will undergo an official inquiry into its practices, which commerce spokesman Paul Swain hopes will be up and running before Christmas.

"It would be my intention to try and have the formal part of the inquiry, the people in place and the terms of reference, at least established before Christmas."

He expects a result within six months. Swain has repeatedly said he is unhappy with Telecom's level of influence on the market but he is reluctant to see a "heavy-handed regulatory regime" implemented.

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