In May this year, 18 tech sector groups released an Election Manifesto, outlining a series of recommendations for the next New Zealand government. The Foresyte Report has condensed the 22-page manifesto into 10 key areas and has assessed the minor parties – Maori Party, ACT, The Opportunities Party and United Future on how their policies that relate to ICT stack up.
With most people interested in the big issues such as health, education, and the economy, political parties understandably make those issues a priority in their policy making, which means ICT is well down the list. While the parties polling above the five percent threshold – National, Labour, Green Party and NZ First – all have dedicated ICT policies, the minor parties do not. However, mixed in with their other policies, they do address some of the key areas outlined in the tech sector’s manifesto.
The policy most aligned to the tech sector manifesto is around training and working with the “ICT, Electronics and Telecommunications sector to design and implement cadetships for technician roles.” There is also mention of setting up community-based Maori Innovation and Entrepreneurship hubs.
The party would also impose a target for the proportion and value of government contracts to be awarded to Maori-owned businesses. While not exactly in line with the procurement goals in its manifesto, this may be something the tech sector could consider for the next election.
ACT’s education policy doesn’t specifically address supporting Digital Technologies as a core school subject, but seeking to award schools’ grants so they have greater discretion over teachers’ pay is something many in the tech sector may approve of. Simply because the teachers who understand Digital Technology can usually make better money in the private sector, so higher salaries could attract ICT professionals to education.
ACT also intends to “cut wasteful spending of taxpayer’s money such as Government trying to pick winners by giving money to favoured businesses.” Assume this means that ACT would seriously review the role of Callaghan Innovation.
The Opportunities Party (TOP)
A couple of areas that show some sympathy with the tech sector’s manifesto can be found in The Opportunities Party policies. Under immigration it would seek to bring in “genuine skills criteria”, which would mean “programming fine, dishwashing not”.
TOP would also review R&D grants and regional development, with a view to creating an “arms-length angel investment fund” that would become a self-sustaining fund over time.
There was very that would chime with the tech sector’s manifesto in the United Future’s policy. In education it would review funding available for IT initiatives and training for teachers, and in immigration develop a long-term strategy (which fits with the idea of being more robust when assessing migrant skills).
10 key areas outlined in New Zealand’s Digital Future 2017 Manifesto:
- Education – support Digital Technologies up to Year 10, encourage schools to offer the subject as NCEA Levels 11-13, address teacher shortage in this area.
- Training – develop and train government and private sector workers in digital competency.
- Immigration – robust assessment (and encouragement) of migrants with ICT skills and qualifications.
- Connectivity – improve affordability as well as accessibility of high-speed connectivity.
- Economy – support “clusters of small firms” to grow digital exports, continue to develop privacy and regulatory frameworks and evaluate international competitiveness regarding incentives for Foreign Direct Investment.
- Cybersecurity – better education for SMEs in cybersecurity and boost CERT capability.
- R&D – review research funding through vehicles such as Marsden Fund and Callaghan Innovation, introduce incentives (eg R&D tax credits).
- Procurement – greater transparency over large contracts, and break down large contracts into smaller components. Also, mandate the adoption of open standards.
- Privacy – amend legislation to include mandatory reporting of significant privacy breaches. Ensure policy makers recognise social responsibility to protect public from harm.
- Ministry for the Future – create a new Ministry based on recommendations made up of experts from outside government and appoint an independent Chief Technology Officer to be the MoF’s CEO.
Organisations that contributed to ‘New Zealand’s Digital Future 2017 Manifesto’ are: NZ Tech, InternetNZ, IT Professionals NZ, Tuanz, NZRise, NZ Software Association, Canterbury Tech, FinTech NZ, HealthIT NZ, Health Informatics New Zealand, Open Source Society, Project Management Institute of NZ, itSMFnz, Test Professionals Network, Game Developers Association, Pecision Ag Association, AI Forum, VR/AR Association.
NOTE: this is an independent assessment of the tech sector’s Manifesto and the party policies. Feel free to provide feedback via comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org .