When asked by the Foresyte Report for her top three priorities in her new role, the Minister for Communications Clare Curran offered four.
- Digital equality
- Digital transformation
- Connected society
- Open and participatory democracy
Curran stresses it is early days, and these are “high level priorities”, but as Labour’s most consistent ICT and Broadcasting spokesperson for “nine long years” in opposition she begins her role in the portfolios well prepared.
As for the fate of National Government’s flagship infrastructure projects Ultra Fast Broadband and the Rural Broadband Initiative, Curran ruled out any “major changes”. However, she did emphasize that a key concern is inclusiveness as “digital inequality is fast become a new measure of poverty”. The Coalition agreement with New Zealand First stipulates a return to funding for the Computer in Homes programme, and there is likely to be more focus on ways to remove social and economic barriers to online access.
When queried about what she means about prioritising “open and participatory democracy”, Curran pointed to her role as Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government). She says the public is becoming more disengaged with the democratic process and suggested new initiatives such as introducing civics education into schools. Other ideas are strengthening public media, which could see a boost to Radio NZ as well as the overhaul of funding agencies such as NZ on Air.
Then there is the pre-election promise to create a New Zealand Chief Technology Officer. It is loosely based on the idea of the existing Chief Scientist Officer position. Curran says Labour has long advocated for the role, noting it was recommended as part it’s the Future of Work Commission, and that Labour’s Coalition parties appear, on the face of it, to be in tune with the idea. (Indeed, it looked as if the country would get a NZ CTO regardless of who was in power, as two days prior to the election National issued a brief statement supporting the role).
Curran says she will be seeking input from a range of people about the role and, in combination with creating a national CTO, will look to establish a National Digital Architecture which will be “external facing” and go beyond government procurement and ICT infrastructure.
Curran will make her first major public appearance as the keynote speaker at NetHui in Auckland next Thursday. It is likely to be a ‘state of the ICT nation’ address and will set out her views as to how the Communications and Broadcasting areas will take shape in the next three years under a Labour-led coalition government.
This topic was discussed during Radio NZ’s Nine-to-Noon show – http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018620142/new-technology-with-sarah-putt