Election 2017 – How does Labour’s ICT policy stack up?

Photo courtesy of the Electoral Commission
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 Labour Party on how its ICT policies stack up.

During the last three terms, the National Government has had three different Ministers in charge of ICT (primarily the Communications portfolio) but across the House, Labour MP Clare Curran has been constant as the ICT spokesperson. It is therefore unsurprising that the party has produced a seven-page policy document which addresses many of the tech sector’s requests in its May manifesto – but not all.

Labour easily ticks off Training, promising to establish 1200 digital apprenticeships “to ensure that the ongoing demand in industry can be met” and to ensure it is an industry-governed body that oversee the ICT training.

The party also scores on Immigration – with its goal to “reform the immigration process to attract skilled IT migrants”. This is presuming that IT skills won’t fall victim to Labour’s goal of reducing work visa’s by up to 8000 annually.

Regarding Connectivity, with most of the contracts signed for extensions to the Ultra Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiative, Labour can’t really trump National in terms of investment so it makes a few promises such as working with industry to gain support for a “DIY approach” to fibre installation in the hinterland. But where it scores its point for Connectivity is in the statement that it will “review the role of the state in ownership and licensing of spectrum frequencies to ensure long term public good for all communities.” Not actually a part of the tech sector’s manifesto, but it would really shake things up.

It also wins a point for Economy, for several reasons not least of which it is promising $10 million over 10 years for a Centre of Digital Excellence in Dunedin (Curran’s hometown maybe, but the tech sector’s May Manifesto did state it was looking to support “clusters of small firms” to grow digital exports). Also, a point for Procurement, as its policy shows it has been been listening to many concerns expressed by the tech sector, notably NZRise.

The suggestion of a Digital Bill of Rights that will be integrated with the Bill of Rights, the Crimes Act, the Privacy Act and surveillance legislation means that the Labour policy scores a point in the Privacy area. And while there is no mention of a Ministry for the Future, it does favour a Chief Technology Officer, so a half-point there.

The policy doesn’t directly address Digital Technologies in the curriculum, so no point for Education and neither is there anything specific about Cybersecurity or R&D. Total score for Labour is therefore 6.5/10

10 key areas outlined in New Zealand’s Digital Future 2017 Manifesto:

  1. 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.
  2. Training – develop and train government and private sector workers in digital competency.
  3. Immigration – robust assessment (and encouragement) of migrants with ICT skills and qualifications.
  4. Connectivity – improve affordability as well as accessibility of high-speed connectivity.
  5. 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.
  6. Cybersecurity – better education for SMEs in cybersecurity and boost CERT capability.
  7. R&D – review research funding through vehicles such as Marsden Fund and Callaghan Innovation, introduce incentives (eg R&D tax credits).
  8. Procurement – greater transparency over large contracts, and break down large contracts into smaller components. Also, mandate the adoption of open standards.
  9. Privacy – amend legislation to include mandatory reporting of significant privacy breaches. Ensure policy makers recognise social responsibility to protect public from harm.
  10. 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 info@foresytereport.com .



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