Technology is seen as the key to New Zealand's future success, a survey of Kiwi attitudes and self image shows.
The ongoing study is being conducted by research company CM Research and public relations consultants Porter Novelli. Using focus groups comprising 1000 people from Auckland, Wellington, Alexandra, Christchurch and Waipukurau, the survey asked participants to select elements of New Zealand life and culture that they feel will have the greatest impact on the country's future success.
"The way we use technology" was the most common response (47%); followed by "the level of skill in our workforce" (35%) and "our schools, polytechs and universities" (34%).
The survey found that optimists were more likely to select the technology option, workforce skill came first for pessimists and fence sitters were more likely to give educational institutions top ratings. "Even older people see that technology is a major driver for our future," says CM Research managing director Murray Campbell. "I was surprised by the way older people latched on to technology as being the key to the country's success."
Fifty-one percent of people aged 55 and older see technology as a key driver, while the same applied for 53% of "baby boomers" and 40% of those aged 34 and younger.
How technology is defined varied across the age groups. Older people tended to think of examples such as electric fencing or the Britten motorbike, while younger people were more focused on New Zealand software and computer hardware.
"Few New Zealanders see that we have any barriers to adopting new things and there is a feeling that all New Zealanders should participate in and adopt technology," says Campbell. According to the study, 37% of people have access to the Internet. "But we think that the percentage of Kiwis with Internet access in their homes is in the high twenties."
However, the embrace of new technology does not mean New Zealanders are turning their back on traditional Kiwi lifestyle and icons. "Rather it's a fusion of old and new", says Jackie Crossman of Crossman Porter Novelli, the public relations company's Auckland branch.
"We have a bunch of people in swandris but who are also on the Internet. They don't feel they have to throw out their gumboots and swandri now that they're on the Internet. This links to our view of the nation as resourceful which comes from our pioneering past. It has its origins in the fact that we're down at the bottom of the world and we've always had to be independent and problem solvers," says Crossman.
"New Zealanders have come of age. They've shrugged off any inferiority complex and feel quite self assured in who they are and what they have to offer. Most are proud of New Zealand's achievements and feel that they have a distinctive culture."
CM Research and Porter Novelli are conducting the study to help decision makers understand the key influences affecting how New Zealanders view the world so they are in a better position to create successful strategies for the future.
"There is a lot of millennium angst and we wanted to figure out whether it's in the decision makers' heads or in the population's heads. We're finding that it's more in the heads of the decision makers," says Crossman.
Called "Currents of Thought -- A Compelling View of New Zealanders", the ongoing study is being carried out in five phases which will be released bi-monthly from this month until March 2000.