Address to National Digital Forum

  • Hon Clare Curran
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

Kia ora koutou,

Thank you for the invite to open your conference this morning.

I’m inspired by your aim of working together to improve New Zealand’s digital interaction with culture and heritage.

Dunedin South, the electorate that I represent, has contributed to New Zealand Culture and Heritage, producing cultural icons such as Janet Frame and James K Baxter.

They had a knack of taking you on magical journeys with their words.

I don’t consider myself in the same league, but I’d like to share my vision for how my portfolio can contribute to a future-focused, modern strong democratic nation.   

I spoke last week at Nethui about my approach, which will be:

  • Taking a joined-up, aspirational approach to our digital economy, to increase productivity and the economic benefits of digital technologies
  • Addressing the digital divide to reduce the gap between the internet “haves” and “have nots”
  • Strengthening protection of New Zealanders’ digital rights
  • Enhancing the voice of independent public service media
  • Driving the ongoing transformation towards a more open, digital Government.

Part of how we’ll achieve this is by creating a digital roadmap for New Zealand for the next five to ten years.

Digital economy (Collaboration)

Collaboration is what is driving the new coalition government.

We need to be more connected to see our digital economy grow and realise the potential of the internet and the economic benefit it can produce.

But for the digital economy and the entire economy to flourish, we have to use our technology more effectively.

Industry, Government, NGOs, Māori and other players need to work together to get the very best from the technology, to create new jobs and re-skill old ones, to see our New Zealand companies succeed against multinationals here in New Zealand and on the world stage.

Success isn’t just about building an infrastructure and hoping for the best, it’s about developing peoples’ skills for those jobs of the future and that will come from collaboration.

You will know the success of Mahuki, Te Papa’s innovation incubator.

It’s a great example of working in partnership with the commercial and creative sectors through technology to connect people with their culture and heritage.

Examples such as Craftmapper, a social enterprise that uses technology to support indigenous communities to protect their unique cultural heritage, is also providing livelihood opportunities.

Creating new opportunities through IT has so much potential to drive economic growth for small business, the backbone of New Zealand business.

Digital inclusion (access)

There’s an irony to the internet. Citizens want government and organisations to deliver more and more services online.

Yet 1 in 5 people in New Zealand use the internet sparingly or not at all.

It’s a matter of high priority to understand the digital divide – what separates the “haves” and “have nots.”

Our position is that New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right, regardless of income or geography.

I want all New Zealanders to know what it’s like to feel connected, not be left behind.

We have to bring everyone along on our journey to becoming an engaged digital community.

New Zealanders also have the right to know that the records of their stories, cultures, communities and heritage are not only available, but also easily accessible to them.


There are opportunities for the GLAM sector to collaborate across and beyond, to digitise and make available, and preserve, more New Zealand digital heritage so that it can be available for all. Forever. 


This includes working collaboratively to digitise and increase access to Te Reo materials, New Zealand music, audio visual content and other heritage materials that are yet to be digitised. 

He Tohu is an example of how government has collaborated in partnership with iwi to develop an exhibition using technology to provide access to visitors to the exhibition and to classrooms across New Zealand, the stories of the documents, their significance, and encourage debate about how they will influence our future as a people and a nation.

Richard Foy, Acting Chief Archivist will talk more about He Tohu in a session later in the conference.

As a mother of two boys, I feel assured that the GLAM sector plays a significant role in the education of our children.

With the increased use of devices at school and online classroom communities, it’s important that we provide as much access to online learning resources as possible.

Currently Libraries provide wifi and computer terminals across the country to the 40,000 households with school age children who do not have the internet.

1.1 million or 1 in 4 New Zealanders have used National Library’s Papers Past site to explore their heritage online.

There are over 10 million visits to Te Ara, the online encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

People interacted with digital content in over 27 million times in the last year. 

Public Libraries deliver almost 8 million wifi sessions to the public every year and there are over 2000 free public internet terminals in libraries across New Zealand. 

Libraries are the knowledge hub of our communities and wherever we can make gains in greater access to this knowledge, the better our social cohesion will be.

Digital rights

What has not kept up with the pace of technology has been the pace of developing the legal framework to protect New Zealanders’ digital rights.

In a digital environment, New Zealanders expect their information to be private and secure.

Trust is most important.

So we must find the right balance in guarding our citizens’ privacy and using the information we hold to improve services for them. 

From protection from mass surveillance to the rights of privacy to the rights of what can be done with your personal information, these digital rights need a framework around them.

I want to create Reference Groups or Ministerial Advisory groups, across the three main portfolios I hold - Broadcasting and Digital Media; ICT/ Communications; and Open Government.

It will be their role to bring together innovators and leading thinkers from across all areas, from inside central and local Government, NGOs, Maoridom, industry, and community groups and help build out the detail of where we are now and what we should look like in the future.

The groups will be focused around driving delivery.

Open Government

All New Zealanders deserve a transparent, open democracy that is free from corruption and abuse of power.

New Zealanders also need to have confidence that there is sound democratic process in law-making and the parliamentary process.

I aim to change the way we use and build technology in the public sector to serve our citizens, businesses, non-profits and society as a whole.

I see the Government working more as a partner and enabler for society.


New Zealanders need to know that they are encouraged to be the best they can be and that no-one is left out or diminished.

And people rightly expect that government should behave in a predictable, open and transparent way wherever it can.

That’s the basis of trust.

Digital tools are fundamental to us achieving these goals.

Knowledge is power.

And our role in government is to empower our citizens – to participate in our democracy, build on our great culture and heritage and achieve their dreams.