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Griffin on Tech: Put your thinking caps on - we need a decent digital strategy

Peter Griffin, Editor. 22 October 2021, 1:51 pm

Here's an interesting fact I learned yesterday - New Zealand is one of the only countries in the OCED that doesn't have a national digital strategy.

That revelation came courtesy of Robyn Henderson, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Digital Economy Lead.

"At the ministry, sometimes we are asked to complete surveys from the OECD about how we're going on our digital strategy. There's a bit of a short reply," Henderson said on an IT Professionals NZ webinar yesterday.

Henderson has been tasked with the job of changing that, by leading the creation of a strategy that isn't just going to fade into irrelevance, but actually steer the government's policy settings, funding decisions and activities in the digital space.

It's proving to be no mean feat. The strategy discussion document that is currently out for consultation is a bit light on detail and, as Henderson herself admits, lacking key indicators that could be used to monitor the strategy's progress.

"There aren't a huge amount of existing indicators and data sets around how we track progress," she said.

"That's a piece of work that we're also progressing alongside the strategy, that Stats NZ is leading. How do we improve our capacity to measure what's happening in the digital economy?"

Digital Space

What do we measure?

Henderson wants your ideas on what exactly we should be measuring on an ongoing basis. The Government intends the strategy to rest on three pillars - trust, inclusion and growth, which makes a lot of sense. We need to trust technology enabling the digital economy, to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in it, and to use technology to best effect to grow the country's wealth.

The discussion document is stronger on the growth pillar because a lot of work has been done in that area already in developing the Digital Industry Transformation Plan which is likely to get some funding in Budget 2022 to start rolling out initiatives.

"It's fair to say it had a slightly more economics leaning to it originally and it had concepts like higher productivity, low emissions," Henderson admits.

Trust and inclusion are less well-defined beyond feel-good, aspirational language.

"It's not that we're starting from scratch," Henderson points out. 

"There's a range of different programs and initiatives underway in government and in the private sector, but they're not necessarily all that well connected up."

There's the Digital Inclusion Blueprint, the Cybersecurity Strategy, Digital Boost for helping small businesses with digital transformation and work is underway on developing a digital identity and trust framework and a consumer data right.

But without a strong vision to bring all of these strands together, our digital ambitions will be stuck in low gear. Critics point out that the consultation period for the digital strategy has been relatively brief - just one month - and Covid restrictions have limited the scope of physical workshops to help inform it. But there's still time to have your say and Henderson would love to hear your ideas. The final digital strategy will be released in early 2022.

A digital ministry?

I've been flicking through other countries' digital strategies. The Germans in particular do a lot of strategizing. They have national strategies for blockchain, artificial intelligence, 5G, industry 4.0, open data, digital education and many other digital areas. They've also got an overriding digital strategy looking out to 2025. It seems to be working for them, with Germany the fifth-biggest ICT market in the world and one of the fastest-growing digital markets.

In the wake of the recent elections in Germany that marked the retirement of long-time Chancellor Angela Merkel, the ruling parties are now even mulling the creation of a digital ministry, focused on digital transformation. 

Now there's an idea. Let's learn from the best and better harness all the good mahi we are already doing. But time is short, have your say now before its too late - submissions close on November 10. 


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Derek Barnes 27 October 2021, 12:48 pm

We are meant to have a strategy - we were one of the original D5 countries pushing all this.

See -

According to that site, it is the Department of Internal Affairs which are leading us - somewhere?

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