Opening Speech to the Play By Play Conference, Wellington

  • Hon Clare Curran

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to open the Play by Play conference, now in its third year.

It’s great to see events such as the Play by Play festival happening in Wellington, and the gaming sector promoting itself as an important part of our tech sector.

As some of you will know this government wants to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025 and we intend to close the digital divides – the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ – by 2020.

The digital economy has not been put centre stage but as Minister I want to change that.

Growing ICT to become the second biggest contributor to our economy is ambitious –deliberately so. I’d like us to set big goals for this fast-growing sector which has so much potential for our future. 

It’s encouraging to see the variety of activities in the festival available for young people because it’s so important we show our young people the pathways available to the increasingly popular digital technologies.

As well as what’s on offer here there are other groups in our communities helping to improve the digital skills of our young people.

One example of what’s now on offer is an after school game design club at Newlands Intermediate here in Wellington.

This after school club has sold out twice on both occasions in less than 24 hours. It teaches kids to make and publish games.

I want to work with groups like yours and those in the community because I see game development as key to growing the tech sector.

New Zealand is traditionally very good at creativity and innovation, and we are great story tellers.

Game development has not traditionally been at the forefront of people’s mind when talking about supporting the tech sector, but I think it should be.

We have an opportunity to do great things with gaming.

Game development has many benefits, including being a unique case of a digital export driven industry, which avoids several of the limitations that often limit New Zealand businesses. 

It’s evident from the high-calibre of people nominated in the individual Play by Play Awards that the New Zealand gaming sector has an abundance of talent.

We have extremely smart and creative people in this sector in New Zealand, and I want to see us make the most of it. 

We want to further diversify New Zealand’s economy by creating new jobs and attracting students and workers to our universities and cities. 

Putting more emphasis on the gaming sector is one way we can diversify the tech sector, and our economy more generally. 

In addition to growing the tech sector, gaming has an important contribution to make to other sectors, such as education and health.

I want to be an engaged and responsive Minister. I have set up a Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group to advise on issues around the tech sector and closing digital divides. 

I will appoint a Chief Technology Officer to assist in the development of a Digital Strategy for New Zealand, of which, growing the tech sector will be a major part.

And I expect that supporting and growing the gaming sector will be a part of that strategy. 

I think that data is an important part of growing our sector, and in this regard I would like to see more information about the potential contribution of the gaming sector to New Zealand’s economy, and more research into where our opportunities lie in this area.

My colleagues are also thinking about research and development and just this week Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced the introduction of an R&D tax incentive to support New Zealand’s innovation system.

Growing R&D is a key lever in diversifying the economy and creating new industries, businesses, and highly skilled jobs.

The New Zealand Film Commission also has an Interactive Development Fund. This $200,000 fund supports the concept development of original narrative-based interactive content for virtual reality, augmented reality and games.

Already we see the developers of three games are among the successful applicants for the IDF.

I have heard from the industry already that tech sector skills are a major barrier to growing the sector. I have heard similar things about the gaming industry.

We will continue to work with the Digital Skills Forum, which has a mixture of industry leaders and government officials to address these issues.

As you know, just a few successful start-ups can create disproportionate benefits for the economy. However, it takes a village to raise a successful start-up.

This Government understands the importance of providing support which enables a thriving start-up ecosystem that transforms the economy by creating high value businesses.

 Specifically, I understand that there is work going on which looks at support and advice from business mentors and accelerators, access to early-stage finance and supportive digital infrastructure. 

I will continue to engage with stakeholders, and am encouraging my officials to work more closely with industry so that we can develop policies that are fit for purpose.

In my view, New Zealand is much too small to have Government and industry working on separate agendas and I look forward to work with you in the future.

I wish you all the best for the rest of the conference