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'NZ not responding fast enough to digital tech'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The just released international report on digital competitiveness, Digital Riser Report 2021, finds New Zealand’s digital competitiveness has reduced 70 points, national tech leader Graeme Muller says.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital technologies, Muller, the NZTech chief executive says.

Companies with digital business models have been able to operate during various alert levels without significant revenue loss and many have grown.

"Companies relying on digital infrastructures and processes have also been able to keep operating smoothly.

"Whereas parts of the economy and groups of society are missing out on the benefits of the digital revolution, and this will only get worse if not addressed with more urgency.

According to the report by the European Centre for Digital Competitiveness, an analysis of 137 countries based on data from the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, found that the way governments respond to digitalisation during these covid years will define the progress of their nation for years to come.

The report notes that not only are digital technologies critical, so are the skills required to develop and manage them.

Unfortunately, New Zealand is not progressing well, compared to many nations. The report considers how governments managed the transition, driven by digital technologies between 2018 and 2020.

Digital competitiveness is studied across two main dimensions; ecosystem and mindset. The digital ecosystem includes venture capital availability, cost to start a business, time to start a business, ease of hiring foreign labour, skillset of graduates.

The digital mindset covers digital skills among the active population, attitudes towards entrepreneurial risk, diversity of workforce, mobile-broadband subscriptions, companies embracing disruptive ideas.

"Since 2018, New Zealand’s digital competitiveness has gone backward due to issues with the ability to hire foreign labour and the lack of graduates with digital tech skills, New Zealand is not adapting fast enough," Muller says.

"I might sound like a broken record but, until the government acknowledges the importance of being able to get critical international digital skills into New Zealand, we will continue to slide backward.

"Productivity will get worse not better, income taxes will decrease as high paid roles continue to be shifted out of New Zealand, the algorithms that govern many aspects of our lives will lack cultural relevance and ultimately life will get harder for many more people as the years go on.

"The good news is that the government has been actively working with industry to develop a digital technology industry transformation plan which should be released soon.

"This plan identifies digital skills as critical and proposes several initiatives for fixing the local pipeline including work to improve diversity including attracting more women, Mâori and Pasifika toward digital careers, work to support and encourage more upskilling and reskilling and work to improve the transition from education to employment.

"But this alone isn’t enough as there are already more open roles for experienced tech professionals than the local education system can meet, so we need to start making it easier to bring senior tech experience into New Zealand, or risk slipping further behind."

NZTech is a member funded, not-for-profit non-government organisation that brings together 20 tech associations with over 1600 members who collectively employ more than 10 percent of the New Zealand workforce.

They are collaborating to help create a more socially and economically prosperous New Zealand underpinned by technology. Tech is now New Zealand’s second largest export and creates more than 100,000 high paid jobs for New Zealanders.

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