What NZ needs to become a leading digital nation

New research report

New Zealand has the potential to become a leading digital nation, but urgent action is needed on a number of fronts, according to Dr Amanda Lynn, managing director of boutique outsourcing consultancy Mandolin Associates.

In a research report Critical Issues and Emerging Issues: The Digital Economy in New Zealand, 2017, Lynn said: “New Zealand can be a world leader, particularly, in the areas of: social equity and population well-being—through conscious economic development in the digital age; regenerative environmental management—through digitisation, development and application of advanced technologies, environmental awareness, and informed action.”

However, Lynn said New Zealand had a cultural mind-set that discounts a mature workforce, and that mind-set had to change.

“We are wasting the talents of our people, and we cannot afford to do that. Being over 40 or over 50 doesn’t mean you can’t fully participate,” she said.

“In the second half of a person’s life, we capitalise on all the investment we made in honing their learning skills in the first half. Age is not a barrier to participating in the digital economy, unless we collectively decide that it is through workforce discrimination. In the digital economy, older workers don’t have to move over for the young; they can work side by side and, through that diversity, we all gain.”

Lynn said urgent action was needed on a number of fronts “so that development interventions will bring early and significant shifts in performance.”

These initiatives include:

- Increasing export of ICT-related products and services (including embedded ICT), with clear market-by-market export targets;

- Increasing total business expenditure on research and development intensities in the ICT Industry;

- Investigating the role of ICT-related patents, and of broader forms of intellectual property, in supporting or inhibiting digital innovation in New Zealand;

-  Identifying effective business models available to digital innovators that enable development to sustainable economic scale; sufficient to support the establishment of education/training in, and targeted ecosystem support, of those models.

Demographically, Lynn said New Zealand was well placed to be a leading digital nation. She said her research had shown that nations with smaller, ageing populations were leading digital economy development “due to their smart, mature populations and the agility of their political and institutional systems.”

Of New Zealand’s 4.5 million people, 27 percent were aged 55 and over in mid 2017.

The good news, according to Lynn is that interventions are already underway to address a number of these issues, and were foreshadowed in The Future of Work report released by the New Zealand Labour Party prior to the 2017 elections.

She said these interventions included: the formation of the Tax Working Group; formation of the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion; the reconvening of the Working Group on Pay Equity; and the recruitment of a Government Chief Technology Officer.


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