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New Zealanders in danger of being slow adopters

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 12 September 2019, 7:38 pm

Technology is unlikely to disrupt work, and change in New Zealand will, to a large extent, be driven by developments overseas. Those are the key findings in the latest report on the impact of technology on employment by the Productivity Commission.

Also, New Zealand needs to embrace - rather than fear - technology.

"The problem is not that there is too much technological change and adoption; there is too little. More and faster technology adoption will open up opportunities to improve New Zealanders' living standards," the report's authors conclude.

"Embracing technology implies supporting people who are less able to adjust, preparing young people for the future, and setting policies and institutions that encourage the entry and uptake of new knowledge, processes, goods and services by firms. There are things New Zealand can do now to support smoother transitions and to seize these opportunities."

The report is the first of four in a series to be released over the coming months, with the upcoming reports being Employment, labour markets and income in October, Education and skills in November, and Preparing New Zealand for the future in December. There will be a final report to Government in March next year.

This report includes an extensive discussion on what technology is and why it makes a difference to the economy, with further commentary about the country's low productivity.

"New Zealand's poor productivity performance has been attributed in part to the weak and slow diffusion of new technologies. In a dynamic economy, the top firms quickly adopt the technologies used by their international equivalents. Yet New Zealand's leading firms tend to have lower multifactor productivity growth than firms at the global frontier," the report notes. 

It's not entirely clear to me what the purpose of this report is and what changes it will lead to. But, according to its "about us" section, the Productivity Commission exists to influence two principal outcomes: lift New Zealand's productivity and, as a result and lift the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

"As an advisory body we do not implement policies. Instead, we communicate our ideas and analysis to influence and shape policy. The nature of productivity issues is also complex. The influence of our work may only emerge over long timeframes and it may be challenging to directly identify and attribute it to our work."

You can decide for yourself how influential this latest report is likely to be, by accessing it here.


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