Budget 2005: The Digital Strategy – Creating a digital future

  • David Cunliffe
Information Technology

Information Technology Minister David Cunliffe today launched the Digital Strategy, a practical and achievable action plan for ensuring all New Zealanders benefit from information and communications technology (ICT).

“This strategy is about creating a digital future for all New Zealanders whether they’re at home, school, work or in the community. The government will provide nearly $60 million through the Growth and Innovation Framework to implement the Strategy as part of Budget 2005,” David Cunliffe said at the launch at Parliament today.

“This includes $44.7 million of contestable seed funding over four years which will be available directly to communities and partnerships. We have set up the Community Partnership Fund of $20.7 million to support grassroots initiatives that will build ICT skills in communities and regions, and help create distinctive New Zealand material in digital form.

“The Broadband Challenge, a fund of $24 million, will be made available to enable affordable broadband roll-out based on competitive open-access principles. This fund will promote high-speed capacity in regional centres and support innovative ways of making broadband available to smaller communities.

“A further $10.4 million will support ICT productivity in businesses and $3.9 million will support the development of a cultural portal to provide an online presence for New Zealand’s creative sector.

“Overall, the government has committed to spend up to $400 million over the next five years to make the Digital Strategy happen. But this won’t be enough on its own to achieve our objectives. That’s why we’re providing new seed funding in Budget 2005 to encourage local government, economic development agencies and others to form partnerships and take action at the local level.”

David Cunliffe said the government was committed to creating digital opportunities by bringing the benefits of ICT to all New Zealanders.

“The Digital Strategy is about people and their ability to connect to the things that matter to them. It’s about making sure all New Zealanders are included by building their capability and confidence in using ICT. And it’s about lifting productivity across the whole economy, especially among small and medium-size enterprises, and thereby helping to grow the ICT sector.

“For the first time we are bringing the government’s ICT policy together to ensure we address the three enablers of this strategy – connection, content and confidence – at the same time.

“Connection is necessary but not sufficient, it simply provides the means. Confidence gives us the skills and a secure online environment. Accessing and creating content provides a compelling reason to make it happen. We need to address all three together.”

The Strategy, which is the result of extensive public consultation, also sets a goal that New Zealand will be in the top quarter of the OECD for broadband uptake by 2010.

“We must respond to two challenges – New Zealand has high Internet usage but low uptake of broadband. Our small market also inhibits investment and limits competition.

“A high-quality, high-speed infrastructure depends on having an open competitive framework. The government’s goal is to enhance competition between providers to promote investment, drive innovation and improve the quality of service offered to consumers.

“The Strategy includes a number of targets to ensure we reach our 2010 goal for broadband uptake. These include promoting and supporting open access fibre networks in 15 cities and towns by 2009, creating conditions for all major public institutions to have access to a fast (1 Gbps) connection by 2010 and implementing the Advanced Network to connect our researchers and universities by 2006.”

The Digital Strategy was launched at Parliament with a videoconference link to Christchurch’s South Learning Centre. The centre, based in the city’s South Library, is a prime example of a partnership between central and local government and the private sector that’s bringing the benefits of technology to local teachers, students and community groups.

The Digital Strategy is available from www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz as a full document and in summary form. Figures given in this release and in the Digital Strategy are GST inclusive.