Labour unveils NZ 'Digital Upgrade' ICT policy

New Zealand's Labour Party promises direct, targeted support for the ICT sector including "garage grants" for very early stage entrepreneurs if elected to government.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor

New Zealand's Opposition Labour Party says supporting the ICT sector is a "no-brainer" because it is already a NZ$7 billion industry and can deliver high value exports and jobs.

Labour leader David Cunliffe is promising to create a government Chief Technology Officer to guide digital policy and to investigate the progress of large government ICT projects. The CTO will also offer "X Prizes" to encourage breakthroughs in technology.

David Cunliffe

Research and development grants are also on the agenda as is encouraging government agencies to procure more from local firms. 

“To encourage investment we will provide tax deferrals in the form of accelerated depreciation to ICT manufacturers and research and development tax incentives to encourage investment in new technology and plant," Cunliffe said.

Government procurement policy would require fairness to local suppliers, he said, and for costs to be evaluated over the whole of life of the investment.

"Someone who is sticky and local over the life of the investment is extremely valuable," Cunliffe said.

A government app store would be created to assist fledgling New Zealand software developers to get into the market. Labour's policy would also favour systems adhering to open published standards to avoid lock-in.

Labour is also promising "garage grants" for very early stage entrepreneurs to take clever ideas into reality. Cunliffe says such organisations do not qualify under existing schemes run by the likes of NZ Trade & Enterprise. The grants will be "relatively small and light around the compliance burden required", he said.

Labour also promises to create 1200 digital apprenticeships and to refocus immigration policy to favour people with ICT skills. Fewer low skilled temporary immigrants would be admitted and more skilled migrants would be favoured, he said.

He said a lot closer liaison between the tertiary sector and the industry is required.

"Just because we are small in size, doesn't mean we have to be small in vision," Cunliffe said.

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