$20 million for the software sector. Is that it for Budget 2022?
A focus on the fast-growing software as a service (SaaS) sector looks to comprise the Government's tech-related spending in Budget 2022, with $20 million allocated to boosting SaaS companies and marketing Kiwi tech to the world.
The funding over four years was announced yesterday on the eve of Tech Week, which features hundreds of events being held in person and online around the country this week.
In launching Tech Week this morning, David Clark, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, said the SaaS sector's export revenue grew by a "record-breaking 19%" in 2021.
"We want to see this continue to grow and the time to do that, the time to act to ensure that growth is now," he said.
The funding will partly go to support KiwiSaaS, which describes itself as "the home of New Zealand's software-as-a-service business founders, directors, leaders and their teams". KiwiSaaS was created by Callaghan Innovation in partnership with New Zealand Trade & Enterprise.
Tech Week 22 is now underway with virtual and in-person events nationwide
Other funding will go towards "short courses for digital skills development" with careers in the SaaS subsector in mind and a national database for the SaaS sector will be established.
"As well as providing us with the means to better measure the size and growth of the sector. It will enable benchmarking for particular companies within the ecosystem to measure and monitor their own progress against peers and best practice," said Clark.
The remaining funding will go towards the 'New Zealand's Tech and Innovation Story', described as "a marketing initiative led by industry in partnership with government, to the world".
It will target key export markets such as the United States, Australia and Europe. Clark pointed out that other initiatives would likely follow as part of the Digital Industry Transformation Plan which is to be finalised later this year.
"I remain committed to the other industry initiatives which were well supported in consultation, and look forward to releasing the final ITP in the coming months," he said.
The $20 million funding, amounting to $5 million per year over the next four years appears to be the only tech-focused allocation this year as Budget 2022 is dominated by $2.9 billion over four years in initiatives to reduce our carbon emissions. Commentators have argued that a bigger push behind the tech sector is needed to stimulate the digital economy, which has the ability to support high-salary jobs in businesses that are less emissions-intensive that agriculture.
Minister Clark seemed to acknowledge that this morning when he noted the low barriers to entry to the SaaS industry.
"New Zealand businesses only need a keyboard and internet connection and most importantly, the right person sitting at that keyboard accessing the internet connection with the right training and support."
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