Speech to the Createch NZ Forum

  • Hon Clare Curran

Kia Koutou all you wonderful creative people.  I hope you’re going to have an excellent day today. Thank you for inviting me to open this Forum today. In particular, thanks to Paula Browning, the Chair of WeCreate.

This isn’t just about the economy – it’s about our culture, who we are and telling our stories in all kinds of different ways that reflect ourselves to the world.

Creative tech and the economy

Creative tech sits at the intersection of technology and creativity – two of the key drivers of the digital economy.

Our creative industries added $3.848 billion to GDP in 2014 and are also a significant contributor to national employment.

In 2015, the technology sector’s contribution to GDP was $16.2 billion.

Those are impressive numbers but note I said 2014 and 2015. The big issue right now is the lack of adequate measurement that is keeping us up to date with where this sector fits.

Createch or creative tech is a broad term and of course takes in film and television, software and web design, interactive gaming and visual and performing arts.

Potentially it impacts a wide range of sectors – helping them to innovate, be more productive, and provide better services to customers.

They include the support industries operating around these sectors but not the many people doing creative or technological work within other industries.

The creative and technology sectors are converging, with the creative sector using more software and technical processes, and the technology sector embracing more creativity, design and user experience processes.

Creative tech is an opportunity to diversify our tech sector and grow the digital economy.

 Links to the wider digital economy 

The digital economy is growing rapidly, but has not always been put centre stage. As the responsible Minister I want to change that.

One of my priorities is to grow the tech sector so that it becomes the second biggest contributor to our economy by 2025. I think we can do better than that but it’s an aspiration and we have to work out how to get there.

It’s an ambitious target, but I’d like us to set big goals for this fast-growing sector which has so much potential for our future. 

The opportunity for New Zealand is in the highly skilled, high-value work that comes from a thriving and inclusive digital economy, and the social benefits of having all of our people connected and engaging with each other, and with government.

On Monday morning I went and spoke to a group of 200 young women, still at school, who were brought together for a session on futures in tech. I pointed out to them that the median wage in New Zealand is $48,000 currently, the median wage in tech is $82,000. And yet only 23 per cent of the tech sector are women.  There’s a good opportunity to do something about that gender pay gap and we need to be pitching careers in tech to young women.

Maximising the potential of our digital economy can improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

To do this, the way we approach supporting the creative tech sector will need to be comprehensive and collaborative, taking into account all the areas that it touches.

If we look at the gaming industry as an example – it’s New Zealand’s fastest-growing creative industry and one of the fastest-growing technology export sectors, earning around $100 million annually.

Gaming is one of the most commercially viable examples of creative tech. I also pointed this out to the group of young women on Monday because while 23 per cent of the gaming workforce are women, and yet 47 per cent of gamers are women.

The game development industry sits between the creative and tech sector. Game development requires people with traditional tech sector skills like programming, development, user interface and creative skills such as design, art, and film.

I’m pleased today to announce a new study focussing on growing the international profile of New Zealand’s game development sector.

The research, led by New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech), and working with the Gaming Association and MBIE, will map the landscape of New Zealand’s interactive media sector, which includes game development and consumer augmented and virtual reality apps.

The research will explore future opportunities for the sector and analyse how it can contribute to the country’s economic, educational and social prosperity.

As with other creative technologies, game development and other types of interactive media can have applications across a range of sectors - economic development, job creation, education, healthcare, Māori development and culture.

This research will be a hugely valuable resource to inform the direction of government policy and industry initiatives, and provide a useful foundation for future collaborations between the industry and government.

I’m committed to growing the creative technology sector. While this research focuses on one part of it, it will unlock really important information on New Zealand and overseas markets, and identify industry opportunities and challenges that can apply more widely.

An inclusive tech sector

As part of growing our digital economy, my vision is that New Zealand can grow an inclusive tech sector, and I hope this is true of the creative tech sector as well.

New Zealand is traditionally very good at creativity and innovation. We are great story tellers and we have the opportunity here to do great things.

I just want to acknowledge Jane Wrightson from NZ On Air which is the repository of where a lot of that investment comes from to allow that to happen.

Technology is used to engage customers both while they are on location (for example, through digital products and storytelling), and also through marketing and virtual engagement.

Traditionally the culture sector has been more creative and driven by experts and curators but shifts towards digital technology and more collaborative ways of working are challenging that model.

Creative technology works in different industries to help generate innovation solutions, reduce costs, establish new production techniques or business models, and create new or more effective products.

This space we’re in now – Mahuki – is a great example of the application of creative tech to the culture and heritage sector. 

Te Papa launched Mahuki in 2016 as an innovation accelerator programme, where entrepreneurs use technology to develop solutions to challenges facing cultural institutions.

Products developed through Mahuki include virtual and augmented reality, and phone and computer-based applications and software. 

When it launched Mahuki was the world’s first business accelerator for the cultural sector. Now I understand institutions in Australia and Singapore are following suit.

We’re known internationally in a number of creative technology areas, especially film and games, which allows us to attract international collaborations and overseas talent.

If we hone in on one part of the sector – gaming – the figures tell you it’s a growing industry. In 2017 it earned $99.9 million in annual revenue and has a 12 per cent growth rate. In 2017 it was 97 per cent export driven and there were 500 professional game developers employed by studios in New Zealand.

Interestingly a snapshot of the NZ video gaming industry value from last year shows the total industry value was up 7 per cent to $452.3m.

Making up that total were strong digital sales up 12 per cent to $334m and digital downloads up 20 per cent to $114m. What that tells us is that gaming is strong.

We are absolutely a country of innovation and ingenuity and we have a unique culture with stories ready to be told.

But we do have a number of persisting issues such as insufficient funding and a lack of diversity.

One issue that is often raised with me is the skills shortage, particularly with senior talent.

That’s supported by the Gaming sector where 42 per cent of studios feel the skills shortage is a barrier to growth.

We’ll continue to work with the Digital Skills Forum, which has a mixture of industry leaders and government officials, to address some of these issues. We’re also looking at the possibility of setting up a centre of digital excellence, focused on gaming, in New Zealand

This Government also understands the importance of providing support for start-ups which transform the economy by creating high value businesses.

Creative tech businesses are often small start-ups that would benefit from additional support to help them grow and succeed long-term.

Budget 2018

Those initiatives are part of a plan this Government has to transform the economy and improve the living standards of all New Zealanders.

Part of that work includes our commitment to close the digital divides by 2020. It’s all very well being digital but if you can’t access it, you can’t afford it, you live in a place where you can’t get it, or you don’t have the skills and you’re a bit afraid of using it – then that’s not much good.

Our digital inclusions strategy is to make sure all Kiwis benefit from the opportunities. We want the gap between the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ to go so everyone has an equal chance.

That’s why as part of Budget 2018 we have committed $17.6 million over four years to transform government through digital and data initiatives.

This will fund the Chief Technology Officer and three Ministerial Advisory Groups for Digital Economy and Inclusion, Open Government and Broadcasting.

My Digital Economy Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory group (DEDI) has been working away since the beginning of the year.

Budget 2018 also allocates $6.2 million over four years so MBIE can deliver on the Government priorities around technological disruption.

There are challenges but there are also opportunities driven by new technology.  This means there’s a critical role for innovation, science and research to harness the benefits of technology for the future of work - another big priority of this government

We are a positive and stable government that knows fixing problems needs fresh thinking and energy

We’re ready to put in the effort and I really hope you are too.

Opportunities 

During this forum you’re going to look at issues such as how New Zealand might gain competitive advantage in the creative tech sector over the next ten years, and recommendations that could be made to industry and government to achieve this advantage.

I would encourage you to think about the following questions as you consider opportunities in the creative tech sector.

I imagine that a few of these will come up in your discussions today and some of these questions will be of crucial importance as we develop the sector and grow our digital economy.

The first is identifying new markets that New Zealand can excel in within the creative tech sector. Where should we be focussing our efforts, and how can new, disruptive technologies complement these efforts?

There’s also a future of work question that we need to consider – what are the opportunities that disruptive technologies will bring and do our people have the skills to enable them to benefit from this disruption??

We should be thinking about how New Zealand’s diverse perspectives contribute to a richer creative tech sector, including new valuable business ideas and creative content.

The most radical and exciting ideas often come from outside the mainstream.

And to make all of these good ideas reality, we need to actively collaborate.

How do we collaborate across different industries or content areas to solve more problems than when we work in our traditional silos?

Creative tech lends itself to being a multidisciplinary area, and we should consider how this can be a real asset.

Conclusion

Thank you for inviting me to open this Forum.

Please be ambitious today, and consider how creative tech can be a real driver of our digital economy and our culture, who we are and how we communicate ourselves to each other and the world.