New Zealand may not survive the transition to the new IT-based economy, says the author of a new report.
Dr Howard Frederick, director of the New Zealand Internet Institute at Victoria University and author of an upcoming report on the "knowledge economy" and its repercussions for New Zealand, says New Zealand has no strategy and no clear view of where to go.
"Our competitors — the UK, the US and Canada, Europe and even poorer countries like Malaysia and Korea have government strategies in place to take them forward. The time's come to leap or die and government has to face it."
The report has been commissioned by ITAG, the advisory group to IT Minister Maurice Williamson, and is due to be presented to the group on June 8.
The report will give a suggested strategy for government to follow, including education policy and the need for government to lead by example. "Why doesn't the government have an [electronic] procurement policy, for example?" asks Frederick. "They need to invest in the human infrastructure too: push life-long learning, review immigration policy on knowledge skills and attract ex-pat New Zealand knowledge workers back home."
New Zealand could also take advantage of its multicultural society by working with Maori, he says. "Maori have a different concept of knowledge and who owns it. That can present either problems or opportunities but if it's done well it could be a way for New Zealand to differentiate itself."
And, he says, that's important. New Zealand has a good reputation as a holiday destination but "it's not on the radar screen as a technology nation. That's an image deficit we have to cure: New Zealand can have all the skills but if the people in Silicon Valley don't know that, it's no good."
A more active role for Trade New Zealand in advertising high-tech New Zealand would be a start, he says. One of the characteristics of the knowledge economy is that brains migrate to other brains and there's no reason why New Zealand couldn't be an important centre.
The report, originally meant to be 40 pages long, is already 100 pages long and Frederick has not finished it yet. "Australia's report on online trade strategy, 'Putting Australia on the New Silk Road', is 420 pages long and it is a good in-depth look at where Australia needs to go. I want the New Zealand report to act as an Emergency Preparedness Manual, not just for government but for the lay person and young people who should be demanding the government act on this. We can't afford to get left behind."