Innovation and security score big in New Zealand Budget

Venture capital, connecting businesses with government, computers in homes, and national security initiatives will all secure funding in the country's 2019-20 Budget.

The New Zealand government on Thursday officially released its 2019 Wellbeing Budget, with one element focusing on "supporting a thriving nation in the digital age" through innovation, social, and economic opportunities.

The Budget focuses on six key areas: Building a productive nation; taking mental health seriously; improving child wellbeing; supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations; transforming the economy; and investing in New Zealand.

Under the banner of building a productive nation, the government said it wants New Zealanders to thrive in the digital age.

"This requires industries and businesses to innovate and adopt cutting-edge technology that offers productivity and job benefits. It also means New Zealanders will need to acquire new skills to take advantage of the opportunities in the changing job market," the Budget papers [PDF] say.

"New Zealanders are innovative. The government wants to foster that innovation and encourage smaller start-ups to expand, which will in turn help improve New Zealand's productivity, wages and drive export growth."

SEE ALSO: Removing hierarchy to spark innovation within the New Zealand government

To start, a NZ$7.1 million initiative was announced to digitally connect businesses with central and local governments. According to the papers, the initiative establishes a catalogue of services, business rules, and information that will have the capacity to be reused by agencies across government, with the platform to become self-funding from 2021 onward.

It's also looking to commercialise innovation, with NZ$25.5 million in operating funding allocated to "maximise the impact of public investment in research and science by providing effective pathways for knowledge transfer into the economy".

NZ$6.2 million, plus an additional NZ$600,000 in capital funding, will go towards future-proofing New Zealand's manufacturing sector by driving "Industry 4.0" uptake and skills development, with the government explaining that the initiative provides funding for an Industry 4.0 demonstration network consisting of a mobile industry showcase, a network of Industry 4.0 site visits, and up to two "smart factories" that are open to local firms and individuals.

With NZ$25 million in operating funding, and NZ$50 million in capital, the government is also enabling Callaghan Innovation to redevelop the Gracefield Innovation Quarter.

The Innovative Partnerships Programme has been allocated NZ$10 million to attract global firms and innovators to New Zealand, while the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) initiative will have NZ$20.7 million to continue its support of New Zealand businesses operating in international markets.

In a bid to improve satellite-based positioning to increase innovation, safety, and efficiency, NZ$2 million will be pumped into an initiative to explore opportunities for New Zealanders to access global positioning technology through the use of a satellite-based augmentation system.

"This is necessary to support the adoption and creation of new technologies and products," the Budget papers note.

SEE ALSO: Square Kilometre Array supercomputer design completed

The government said there is a gap in domestic capital markets that may be slowing the growth of New Zealand firms, and as a result, it has asked the managers of one of New Zealand's sovereign wealth funds to support its goal of strengthening and deepening the market.

With that, NZ$240 million has been earmarked for investment into early stage capital markets through providing funding for venture capital funds. The government said multiple venture capital funds will be created "at scale" that will offer highly specialised capability and expertise.

NZ$240 million of funding previously earmarked for contribution to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund has been re-purposed for Crown investment into early stage capital markets. The government said there will still be a contribution of NZ$9.6 billion to the Superannuation Fund in this Budget.

Where cybersecurity is concerned, NZ$8.7 million has been allocated to the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to ensure it's adequately funded to fulfil its Cabinet-mandated functions; NZ$8 million has been allocated for the implementation of the Cyber Security Strategy 2019; and NZ$1 million will be used to lift the government's cybersecurity capabilities to meet the expectations of customers and to protect systems from external threats.

Contributing to the protection of New Zealand's national security and international relations, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) will receive NZ$39 million in additional funding for 2019. The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) will also gain NZ$11 million in additional funding to protect the country's national security and international relations.

A total of NZ$66 million will be allocated to RealMe, which provides a secure way for New Zealanders to access a range of online services and prove their identity.

The government is also continuing funding for its Computers in Homes program, with NZ$1 million slated for devices, training, technical support, and support for home internet connectivity that is to be provided for learners and their families.

NZ$600,000 has also been allocated to an initiative aimed at supporting seniors in adapting to changing technology, engaging in the community and the workplace, and accessing digital information and services through a nationwide digital literacy training for seniors program.

With NZ$27.6 million, the government chief digital officer (GCDO) will be tasked with continuing support of the government's digital transformation.

"This will be done by supporting delivery of innovative government services through the Government Digital Partnership Innovation Fund and providing additional funding for the government chief digital officer," the papers say.

In a bid to improve government payroll systems, NZ$2 million will be spent by the GCDO on ensuring payroll systems are future-proofed. The GCDO will lead a program of work across government to engage with suppliers and provide investment advice to government agencies.

Already announced, the government is investing NZ$7.7 million to SuperGold Card, to "improve financial wellbeing through better access to discounts and concessions". The funding will be used on the development of a mobile app, an enhanced SuperGold website, and increased promotion of the SuperGold Card and associated discounts.

Under the sub-banner of delivering national statistics and enhanced wellbeing data, around NZ$60 million will be spent on addressing learners' needs by improving data quality, availability, timeliness, and capability through the provision of a data system to enable a "joined-up approach to data about student progress and learning support needs throughout schooling".

Stats NZ will be given NZ$16.1 million to complete 2018 Census products and services, as well as fund the first year of work required to deliver the next census in 2023. Stats NZ will bid in Budget 2020 to fund the remainder of the program. Stats NZ will also have NZ$136.5 million to maintain current products and services.

NZ$54.6 million, and another NZ$21.8 million in capital will be used for the implementation of a new electronic form that collects information from most visa-waiver travellers before travel, which will enable the collection of an International Visitor Levy from liable visitors. Electronic Travel Authorities will be current for two years.

NOT QUITE A HACK

New Zealand Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf on Tuesday said his department had gathered "sufficient evidence" to say it was the victim of a hack, following the "leak" of the Budget documents ahead of Thursday's embargo date.

Treasury however on Thursday, confirmed that while an unknown person or persons appear to have exploited a feature in its website search tool, the police had advised that this did not constitute breaking the law.

Treasury said that as part of its preparation for Budget 2019, it developed a clone of its website which saw Budget information added to it when each document was finalised. The Treasury intended to swap the clone website to the live website on Budget day.

Although the clone website was not publicly accessible, documents were available through the search function.

"As a result, a specifically-worded search would be able to surface small amounts of content from the 2019-20 Estimates documents. A large number (approx. 2,000) of search terms were placed into the search bar looking for specific information on the 2019 Budget," Treasury explained.

"The searches used phrases from the 2018 Budget that were followed by the 'Summary' of each Vote. This would return a few sentences -- that included the headlines for each Vote paper -- but the search would not return the whole document."

Treasury said that at no point were any full 2019-20 documents accessible outside of the Treasury network.

"The evidence shows deliberate, systematic and persistent searching of a website that was clearly not intended to be public," the statement continued.

According to Treasury, three IP addresses were identified as having performed approximately 2,000 searches, over a period of 48 hours, which pieced together the small amount of content available via the search tool.

The IP addresses involved belonged to the Parliamentary Service, 2degrees, and Vocus.

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