New Zealand Government setting up advisory group for building digital economy and reducing digital divides

New Zealand’s Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services Minister, Clare Curran, has called for expressions of interest for a new advisory group to be set up to advise the Government on how it can build the digital economy and reduce digital divides. 

The Ardern Coalition Government has specifically stated an aim to close the digital divide by 2020 and it has committed to the objective of ICT being the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025.

There’ll be up to 15 people in the group, with the ability to bring in additional members or expertise to address particular issues. Ms. Curran said that she is keen for the group to reflect New Zealand’s diverse communities and to include all age groups and ethnicities, including perspectives from Māori.

The World Internet Project estimates 8 to 9% of New Zealanders, or around 1 in every 11, are not regular users of the internet, while a further 11% are “low level” or light users. The 2020 Trust estimates around 40,000 households with school age children do not have access to the internet. Affordability is a key issue.

The first task of the group will be to provide advice to the Government on the development of a Blueprint for digital inclusion and digital enablement. The advisory group will bring immediate focus and a plan to ensure all Kiwis have affordable access to digital services, and the motivation, skills and trust to fully participate in our digital world.

The group will consider possible future scenarios and identify what’s needed from government to enable everyone – businesses and individuals - to take advantage of the opportunities provided by digital technology.

Ms Curran said, “Digital technology is changing the way Kiwis live their lives, affecting the way we do business, work, and interact with each other and our communities. Given the pace at which our world is changing, we need to ensure no-one is left behind.

“Genuine collaboration is needed if we are serious about increasing productivity, growing the digital economy and reducing the digital divides. That’s why I haven’t pre-determined the group’s membership and am seeking the best thinkers across the community. I want to harness the enthusiasm and great work that’s already happening across the country, and to see what we can deliver together for New Zealanders,” she added.

The key questions for the Digital Economy and Digital Inclusion Advisory Group to consider include:

  1. What is the current state of the ICT sector and ICT capability throughout the economy, society, and government?
  2. What are the possible future scenarios and their relative merits?
  3. What would be required to achieve an optimal future state?
  4. What should a Blueprint for digital inclusion and digital enablement look like?
  5. How might we most effectively work together to build our digital economy, improve productivity and increase the economic benefits of the internet?
  6. How might we better understand the ‘digital divides’ between people who can have access to the internet and can use digital tools, and those who do not?
  7. What would it take to eliminate digital divides by 2020?
  8. How might we identify develop the skill sets needed for the work of the future?
  9. Do we need to take steps to accelerate/optimise infrastructure rollouts such as UFBl/2/2+, RBl2 and 5G? If so, what steps could and should we take?
  10. How should Government evolve its own ICT use in sectors where it plays a prominent role, such as health, education and justice?
  11. What would be needed for New Zealand to: a) Increase its position relative to other countries in measures like the Networked Readiness index; and b) Increase the amount that ICT contributes to GDP so that it is the second largest contributor to the economy by 2025?

Expressions of interest close on 31 January 2018.Terms of Reference and an application form is available at:

Priorities for the Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services Minister

Previously, Ms. Curran set out her priorities in speech on November 9:

  • Setting up this advisory group and two others in three main portfolios areas to look at Broadcasting & Digital Media; ICT/ Communications; and Open Government. The brief for each group is to build a consensus view of the current state of its sector, to pose scenarios of possible future states, and to state what would be required from Government to achieve the optimal future state. 
  • Laying the ground work for establishing the position of a ‘Chief Technology Officer for NZ’ with responsibility for preparing and overseeing a ‘National Digital Architecture’ or roadmap for the next 5-10 years, including Fibre Optic Capabilities, 5G/6G/7G and beyond in mobile technologies, artificial intelligence, Robotics, Autonomous Vehicles, Digital Fabrication, AR/VR and the Internet Of Things
  • A blueprint for digital inclusion
  • Setting the framework for the establishment of RNZ+ as the centre-piece for a full non-commercial, public media service for all New Zealanders.
  • Establishing a process for the pro-active release of government information
  • A framework for strengthening citizens’ rights in the digital environment

Ms. Curran said in her speech that digital rights would encompass rights to protection from mass surveillance, the right to free expression, the right to privacy and rights on what is done with personal information. This would also involve frameworks for data protection and standards for the de-identification of data. The concept of algorithmic transparency also needs to be explored, and the issues of encryption, data portability, reporting frameworks for data breaches, enforcement powers for the Privacy Commissioner, protection of whistleblowers and the proactive release of official information have to be investigated.

The Government will explore the merits of a digital bill of rights to encompass these things and to also protect the interests of those unable to access digital services.  

The Government is looking to strike a balance between the extremes of “let the market prevail” and “let the Government do everything”. The Minister said that a process of co-design is required, where Government and industry can develop an agreed view on the two basic questions of (1) What is already being done; and (2) What is it that Government can do to help?

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