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National party on tech

Sarah Putt. 08 October 2019, 8:09 am

We are at least a year out from the next general election but Melissa Lee, National Spokesperson for Broadcasting Communications and Digital Media, appeared to be in full dress rehearsal mode at the IoT Alliance conference in Auckland last week.

Lee committed to the creation of a national strategy on AI, which the AI Forum called for when it released its annual report last month. The current Government had pledged to develop an AI action plan when Clare Curran was Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister, but that seems to have languished since she left Cabinet.

Lee also said that National will revisit the National Chief Technology Officer position, which remains unfulfilled following a botched appointment process last year. National committed to the position at the very end of the election campaign in 2017.

In the meantime, Lee is asking the tech sector for feedback on what she considers are three key issues in the digital sector today. Here they are:

  1. Does the Government have a role in retaining obsolete and legacy services (such as old Copper Lines) beyond their technological necessity?
  2. Is your organisation, or are your clients concerned about 5G technology in any way; if so, what steps would mitigate these concerns?
  3. Who do you think should be New Zealand's champion for technology and digital issues - is it existing groups like NZ Tech and InternetNZ (and ITP!) or should it be someone in Government?

The previous National Government under John Key was quite active in the tech sector. It established a fund to financially assist tech companies in the form of Callaghan Innovation, it endorsed the "gig economy" (which is enabled through tech) with Uber-friendly regulation, and Prime Minister/Finance Minister Bill English was in the process of putting in place a data-driven approach to reforming the social welfare system, which included establishing a data futures group.

Of course, National's most significant area of tech reform was in telecommunications, as it established the Ultra Fast Broadband deployment (and in so doing the structural separation of Telecom) and kicked off two phases of the Rural Broadband Initiative, both of which are due for completion around 2023.


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