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New Zealand falls behind on digital economic performance

By Catherine Knowles
Tue 7 Jun 2022

New Zealand is not keeping pace with the rest of the world on key measures of digital economic performance, highlighting a growing imperative to take investment in digital skills capability and capacity seriously to avoid falling off a tech tipping point.

According to Aotearoa's Digital Priorities in 2022 a report from the Technology Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ), supported by the global Network Readiness Index (NRI), New Zealand currently ranks 42 in the world for overall access to technology, 56 on cybersecurity, 62 for high tech exports and 69 on medium and high-tech manufacturing.

Measures that have seen the country dropped from place 16 to 20 on the NTI overall between 2020 and 2021; seven places behind Australia.

The report, which also surveyed the priorities and concerns of New Zealand's digital business leaders, reveals that Kiwi companies are facing shortages in hardware, tech products and digitally skilled workers.

Moreover, current technical resources were stretched, with leaders sighting the skills gap, retention of staff, attracting talent and getting people in the door quick enough as the biggest technology challenges their organisation will face this year. Business leaders conceded that New Zealand currently lacks the scale and capital required to invest or adopt new technologies in many sectors.

Craig Young, CEO of TUANZ, says, “We know there is around $46 billion dollars of economic value that could be added to New Zealand's GDP by 2030 by unleashing digital transformation in our non-tech companies, but if we continue to stall against competing nations, it will become much harder to unlock that value.”

Cybersecurity was another key concern, as highlighted in the report. In 2021, 8,831 incidents were reported to CERT NZ, a 13% increase on 2020. 15% of these incidents reported to CERT NZ included direct financial loss, with a combined total value of $16.8 million. However, with 3.5 million global cyber security jobs unfilled in 2021, New Zealand was part of an international scramble to onshore tech talent.

Young says, “New Zealand must find ways to bring new skills into the industry or risk an ongoing brake on the aspirations of our companies to compete in this increasingly digital world. While we will always need to bring skills in from offshore, our companies and Government also need to be aligned in developing home grown talent, especially in underrepresented groups such as women, Maori and Pasifika.”

Business leaders agreed that there is a huge untapped national labour market that could benefit from some tighter and more accessible vocational opportunities.

Lindsay Zwart, chief enterprise officer of Vodafone NZ (who sponsored this report), says that a focus on customer outcomes and new tech can help to mitigate some of these issues.

Zwart says, “Business leaders are being affected by talent shortages and supply chain delays but can drive efficiencies by using cloud and SAAS based services which reduce reliance on in-country resources and hardware.

"We can work to serve our customer needs with data driven decision making and ambitious planning, which comes from acting with empathy towards customers. Placing ourselves in the shoes of the customer will guide where monetary investment is most important.”

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