NZ tech industry leaders lobby for the creation of a ‘Ministry for the Future’

Proposal is part of 12 point manifesto for New Zealand’s digital future

We strongly encourage all political parties to embrace this manifesto and commit to bringing life to its recommendations

Graeme Muller, NZTech

Major Kiwi tech organisations have released a manifesto for New Zealand’s digital future calling for, among others, the creation of a Ministry for the Future.

The establishment of a dedicated ministry “focusing on positioning New Zealand and all government agencies and society to take best advantage of a technologically enabled future” is one of 12 goals in the document.

The report was drafted by 20 tech organisations led by NZTech, IT Professionals (ITP) and InternetNZ.

The digital copy of the report has been sent to every member of parliament and to key government officials throughout multiple agencies as technology is far reaching – from health and education to regions, small to medium businesses and social and primary industries, according to NZTech.

NZTech CEO Graeme Muller says the prosperity of New Zealand is closely linked to how Kiwis embrace the future as a digital nation.

“As we approach the 2017 election, we strongly encourage all political parties to embrace this manifesto and commit to bringing life to its recommendations,” says Muller, in a statement

“The manifesto focuses on three key areas: The future of our people, the future of our economy and the future of our government so New Zealand’s digital potential can be fully realised.

He says the tech sector is now New Zealand’s third largest exporter and is growing fast, contributing over $16 billion to the GDP and employing100,000 people. 

"But it’s not just about the tech sector as new digital technologies are driving economic and social change,"  states Muller.

“For New Zealand to remain competitive in the near future, it needs to plan and prepare for this unprecedented technology change today.”

Taking the long view  

“The changing mode of technology and its impact right across New Zealand is at a scale larger than a one person advisory role,” he says, on the drive for the creation of the Ministry for the Future.

This agency needs to consider the broad implications of technology on the health sector, education and traditional industries, he states.

He says Sweden has a similar agency called the Ministry of Future Issues, Strategy and Cooperation.

He sees the Ministry for the Future  as a quasi-government agency with its own governance structure and “run more like a small commercial organisation”.

 The recommendations are based on observations that there are people in government already working on the goals in the manifesto, and the ministry will provide a more “integrated approach” to it, he tells CIO New Zealand.  Potentially these people can be seconded to the new ministry, and will work with experts outside government.

“The Ministry for the Future is about bringing the great work inside government and in industry and giving it a centre of gravity.”

While New Zealand has a Government Chief Information Officer as a functional lead for digital and ICT within Government, this proposed Ministry would be strategically focused and have a higher level broad scope, according to the report on New Zealand’s Digital Future.

“With the implications of dramatic technology change being all encompassing, this warrants dedicated Ministerial attention to ensure all of New Zealand is ready for the future,” the report states.

“To avoid a fragmented approach, New Zealand needs a whole-of government focus with a dedicated team working on policy development to tackle the challenges of the future. This requires top public servants, along with experts from the private sector, to come together, share research, apply best practice from around the world and continually challenge the Government to be more forward thinking.”

The report recommends appointing a CEO from outside of government, who will be the Government’s Chief Technology Officer.

The role of the industry is “to support the Ministry of the Future wherever possible and partner to consider a full 'NZ Inc' approach”.

The manifesto also calls for New Zealand to:

  • Develop world leading technology by increasing the proportion of digital tech related public research and improving indirect incentives for industry research and development.
  • Equip every child with the digital technology skills needed to be safe and successful in a digital world through comprehensive digital technology education.
  • Be recognised as a world leader in equipping its citizens for the changing economy, through in-work training, career transition support, and public sector leadership in the use of new technologies.
  • Have affordable access to reliable, high-speed internet, coupled with the skills and equipment to use it. As part of this, there should be parity between urban and rural areas with regards to speed/quality and cost.
  • Be recognised as having one of the most digitally savvy economies in the world, with tech product and service exports being our top export sector. The majority of New Zealand businesses either sell or engage in business online.
  • Remain open for business, welcoming genuine skilled migrants in areas of strong need in the digital and technology sector while significantly improving the process of matching the skills of potential immigrants with areas of unmet need.
  • Continue to be a world leading nation to do business in and with whilst maintaining privacy and data security. This is achieved through a world leading approach to cyber security including education, policy and preparedness.
  • Develop a transparent framework for buyers and sellers through government wide prequalification standards and low cost, easy to use procurement processes.
  • Fully embrace open standards and provide  a level playing field for technology in general, and IT services in particular.
  • Continue to be recognised internationally as a bastion for privacy, a country which values and protects the privacy of its citizens through policy whilst still allowing economic growth.
  • Embrace online digital tools to provide efficient, consultative and inclusive policy-making process or allowing for rapid updating of legislation.

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