Speech to IT Professionals NZ

  • Hon Clare Curran
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

Tēnā koutou katoa. Good morning everyone.

I want to kick this conference off with a commitment from this government to the tech sector in New Zealand.

Tech as an enabler of the new economy, as an enabler of greater social inclusion and better public services as an enabler of participative democracy.

This Government is committed to creating a fair and equitable digital economy, where we can all benefit from the opportunities that new technologies provide.

As a Government, we want to do things differently - with people’s well-being at the heart of everything we do. That’s why I’m so pleased that it seems from your agenda that so do you.

Looking through the workshops for this ITx 2018 conference I see there is quite a bit of emphasis on well-being and being human while all this digital stuff is happening around us. Those are really important themes.

What we are genuinely trying to do is engage and take this co-design approach whether its education, health or housing. So things like GovTech, the work that’s going on in open government a new approach to ICT procurement.

We have two big digital goals – to close the digital divides by 2020 and to make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025. I think we can do better than that but setting goals is important.

But we don’t think our achievements as a country should be just based on GDP – it needs to be measured on social success as well.

That’s why we want to measure the effects of our policies and investments and how much of a positive difference they’re making to people’s lives.


Digital transformation

From the government perspective, digital transformation is how government changes the way it works, including its culture and how we deliver public value.

Transforming the Government’s digital approach means having joined-up, people-centric services; it means people being in control of their data; and it means people being able to engage and participate in real time with the government policy process.

It also has to be easier for small businesses to win government business through a marketplace of government.

My role, as the first ever Minister for Government Digital Services, is to drive the digital transformation of government. 

Government is going to have to be innovative, agile and inclusive.


Driving the digital economy

Currently, New Zealand firms make up 74 per cent of government suppliers through that shared capabilities model and I believe with further investment and support the local IT industry can and must continue to grow.

We’re working alongside New Zealand businesses to promote and support local innovation and develop world leading IT solutions.

And we’re working with New Zealand businesses to design an online marketplace for digital procurement.

This will provide government agencies and potential suppliers with an open and transparent way to engage with each other.

Our goal is to make procurement more transparent and further reduce the barriers for small and local suppliers to provide innovative services to government.

The new marketplace, being developed at DIA, will take time and cost out of the process for Government agencies and ICT suppliers alike.

This will drive economic development of the IT and digital sector.

Government will be supporting New Zealand start-ups and offering them valuable exposure, as a significant seed customer.

I’ll be making further announcements on this in the near future. I’m giving you a pledge today to taking a co-design approach to getting our new process to the next stage.


The future of work

Today’s digital world is filled with promise but also challenges.

Self-driving cars, machines that read X-rays, and algorithms that respond to customer inquiries are a few of the emerging technologies that utilise the collection of big data.

The changes that we are seeing – often called the Fourth Industrial Revolution – aren’t defined by any one particular technology, but by the transition to new systems and new ways of thinking.

Taking advantage of digital opportunities needs to be at the centre of how we do business, in a way that will support inclusive growth and make it easier for people to connect and participate in society.

One of the key characteristics of this digital revolution is the exciting but uncomfortable scale and pace of change.

We are seeing the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance because the possibilities of billions of people connected together are unlimited.

Using data and evidence, the Government is focussed on providing services that improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families.

Oranga Tamariki, for example, is putting data and analytics at the heart of its operation as it strives to improve outcomes for each child.

It is in these spaces that technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things will converge with data and analytics to create new types of services and operating models, which in turn, will require new skills and capabilities.

Before we became Government, I was involved in a two year project called the Future of Work Commission that looked at supporting the transition from old business models to new ones; teaching our children to think creatively and confidently; providing health services that keep people well; and ensuring people have the skills needed for tomorrow’s workforce.

Digital disruption is moving at such a pace that the Prime Minister recently announced the establishment of a tripartite Future Work Forum.

That‘s to take the future of work programme further in government now and basically use it as a frame for how we go forward.

Grant Robertson will lead this work with Business NZ CEO Kirk Hope and CTU President Richard Wagstaff.

It’ll examine the big challenges ahead and help shape the policies we need so workers and businesses can adapt to the rapidly changing nature of work.

And I say again – we want to work with you, this isn’t just something happening on the side.


Digital rights and Digital inclusion

Some of the challenges that most concern me are inequality and the potential impact on our regions.

Dr Paul Conway, Director at the New Zealand Productivity Commission, says that compared to other small countries New Zealand businesses are not as well connected internationally, and domestic markets are often small and insular, particularly in the regions.

There’s a risk of increased inequality and exclusion for regional New Zealand, women and minority groups, and that is unacceptable.

It’s one of the reasons why digital inclusion is a priority for me and this Government. And it’s much more than better broadband connectivity.

Government is committed to creating a fair and equitable digital economy and society where we all benefit from the opportunities that adoption of new technologies may provide.

People need to feel protected online, in other words to have digital rights.

Trust is paramount, especially for Government, and it’s our job to ensure our citizens’ human rights are protected in the digital era.

Through our membership in the Digital 7 group, New Zealand is leading the conversation about how we protect our citizens’ rights as the world becomes more connected and information flows more freely

New Zealanders must have access to digital technology, and the skills and capability to succeed in today’s workforce.

That’s why the Government recently introduced the new digital curriculum, which starts in schools next year, from which we’ll build the workforce of tomorrow.

Exposure to technology by all school children from a young age will not only lift our skills base but also encourage girls that tech is a great career choice for them.

At a tertiary level, our fees-free initiative is already benefitting tens of thousands of students and will help many more when it expands by 2024 to provide access to three years of tertiary study fees free.

That underpins our strategy of learning for life.


AI and emerging technologies

AI and automated decision-making pose significant risks for our privacy, digital security, and social issues, such as discrimination.

Through digital interactions with both private and public services and institutions we are producing vast amounts of data about ourselves. This poses risks to our right to privacy and right to be free from discrimination.

As part of our government’s response to new and emerging digital and data issues, my colleague, Hon James Shaw and I have begun a stocktake to assess how government agencies use algorithms to analyse people’s data.

This will result in us issuing interim guidelines and give us a much clearer picture of what sort of algorithms are being used currently.

I’ve also announced an AI action plan and ethical framework that will educate and upskill people on these issues, starting with ethics and governance.


Cyber Security Refresh

I’d now like to turn to the important work we have in train on the Refresh of New Zealand’s Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plan.

We last updated it in 2015 and since then there’s been significant progress in its implementation, but there have also been exponentially more cyber threats. 

The widespread use of Internet connected devices and emerging technology has intensified the challenge. 

We can’t sit on our hands in this space.  All the other countries that we have strong links with have strengthened their cyber security efforts and so will we. 

The refresh I announced in April will test whether New Zealand is investing the right resources across intelligence, protective security, military, law enforcement and civilian agencies to respond effectively to growing cyber security threats. 

The Strategy was initially due out in July, but there’s been such keen interest in it that the deadline has been extended and I am now expecting Cabinet to consider a new Strategy by the end of October.

We are undertaking the Refresh in three key phases and are coming to the end of the “understand” phase. 

The centrepiece of this phase has been a series of five workshops in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, which happened the week before last.

Given your expertise, I hope that members of ITPNZ took the opportunity to participate in these workshops and contribute to the Refresh process.

These workshops focused on the possible vision, goals and principles for the Strategy and incorporated input from a wide range of participants from across the economy.

Some of the key themes we’ve heard at the Refresh workshops were the need to have a people focus; increased collaboration between government and the private and NGO sectors; and a focus on education, development of skills at all levels, and building awareness for New Zealanders on what cyber security is and why it’s important.

A lot of people have been telling us that all New Zealanders should understand some basic things about cyber security, shouldn’t think it’s complicated or someone else’s problem, and should know where to go if they run into problems.

When it comes to the cyber security workforce, the data tells us we have cyber security workforce shortages and gender imbalance issues, and that Government needs to sit up and take notice.

Work has already been done on skills under the current 2015 Strategy.

A Cyber Security Skills Taskforce was established with a number of key initiatives.

They’re working toward establishing a Level 6 Diploma in Cyber Security, which is due out later this year; working with industry to develop an internship framework for cyber security students and graduates; and developing programmes to address the lack of diversity within the cyber security workforce.

But we want to know what more we can do.

There will be further opportunities to provide input into the Refresh process, and we want to harness your expertise, especially on the topic of skills and workforce issues.

We want to make this a truly collaborative process, so if you have thoughts on how we can address the critical skills and awareness issues we face we would love to hear from you.


Digital Skills - Chief Technology Officer

Someone who will also be able to help is out first Chief Technology Officer whose appointment is now only weeks away.

They’ll help the government work out the needs of a future workforce, and the new skills needed. 

Because the implications of technological change will be far-reaching, the CTO will work across a number of policy areas so we can take a whole-of-government approach to tackling future challenges.

They’ll also develop a new digital strategy for New Zealand.


Digital Skills – DEDIMAG

Earlier this year, I formed the 15-strong Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Ministerial Advisory Group or DEDIMAG.

These innovators, leading thinkers and digitally minded individuals are already working on advice for the Government on building our digital economy.

They’re also working on how we reduce the digital divides and on a blueprint for digital inclusion.


New Zealand Digital Skills Forum

The New Zealand Digital Skills Forum - a partnership between industry and government agencies - is also trying to get a handle on the gaps in digital skills and how we improve the flow of talent into the tech sector.

The Forum’s Digital Skills for a Digital Nation report from late last year found more than 120,000 people were employed in our local tech sector and about 14,000 new jobs were created by the tech sector in 2016.


Growing tech skills

The long-term solution to the future skills shortage we face are, of course, our young people.

That’s why the Government recently introduced the new digital curriculum, which starts in schools next year, from which we’ll build the workforce of tomorrow.



As already noted, this government wants all New Zealanders to embrace digital opportunities, in an inclusive way.

To succeed we need to be innovative and look at how we can make our services more effective and accessible in a digital-rich world.

Every New Zealander needs to be on the journey with us; and so does your group of IT professionals. It’s about all of us, not just some of us.

It gives me great pleasure to formally open ITx 2018. Have an excellent 3 days.