Why NZ might need an All Blacks defeat

While the Rugby World Cup presents yet more "bread and circuses" for the masses, the important business of paying for such frivolities is largely ignored.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

While the Rugby World Cup presents yet more "bread and circuses" for the masses, the important business of paying for such frivolities is largely ignored.

The importance of technology in wealth creation and the role of government in this is failing to gain traction in the minds of the public.

For many, an All Blacks win counts more than whoever wins our general election next month.

The campaign for the 26 November poll won't really begin in earnest until after this weekend's cup final, when hopefully a serious look at the issues might begin.

The opposition Labour Party announced its ICT policies on Monday and this week Internet New Zealand stages a major debate on ICT issues with representatives from the main parties.

Internet New Zealand unveiled its ICT discussion document (PDF) last week and as a non-partisan body, there was much "Motherhood and Apple Pie" stuff, with talk about digital inclusiveness, maximising the ultra-fast broadband (UFB) roll-out and so on.

But it seeks a Broadband Innovation Centre, a reform of Copyright Law, "compulsory stewardship" or recycling of IT products and the development of "green" datacentres, along with more R&D spending on technology.

Labour also featured the usual flannel about a Digital Nation and "bridging gaps" in broadband provision, but there was much to get your teeth into.

A planned new tax on internet, however small, is something that will affect us all and should attract the interest of all internet users, but will it?

Like the National Party-aligned David Farrar of Kiwiblog and InternetNZ, we should consider whether this "small" tax will rise over time to fund more than just a way of distributing Kiwi-made content to a wider market.

Labour's proposals for a "web regulator" could also have worrying implications if its remit extends to blogs, as Farrar also fears.

Potential impacts of Labour policy on the UFB roll-out, as raised by the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand, could be another pitfall.

However, the support for open-source software and an end to the "three strikes" Copyright Act seems to have gone down relatively well.

National has yet to reveal its policies and it will find itself having to defend its three years in office.

Its ICT minister businessman, Steven Joyce, typically supports a more hands-off approach.

However, in government, he has intervened with UFB, a massive government-led ICT project; he has forced the splitting up of Telecom NZ, so it could take part; and introduced regulation of Mobile Termination Rates.

In a recent interview with Computerworld NZ he talked of Joyce "slaying dragons" or, as I once said, "ticking boxes".

Now, there is just one major dragon to be slain, or box to be ticked — that of trans-Tasman mobile roaming rates, but that depends on striking a deal with Australia's Stephen Conroy, something Joyce says he is making progress on.

Aside from Claire Curren's Digital Nation and what Steven Joyce may or may not do, the role of technology in wealth creation is also affected by more wider issues, like tax and regulation.

InternetNZ touches on this itself, noting that the country needs to "recognise and reward success".

Tributes poured out following the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs this month and while he was not noted for charitable works like Bill and Melinda Gates, his business efforts will have done more to improve total human welfare than many a charitable foundation.

Looking at New Zealand's technological success stories, making a buck will have been a great incentive for the likes of Sam Morgan of Trade Me or Rod Drury of Xero.

Sam Morgan might wish to pay more tax and he may liberally "give back" in various "causes" as his father, the economist Gareth Morgan, who is using a chunk of his Trade Me revenues to promote what he sees as a way to better improve New Zealand.

But Morgan senior will have to be careful and he might need to look at what motivated Jobs and all those innovators, including his own son, in the first place. I doubt paying people $11,000 a year to sit on their backsides will do it.

These are the economic realities New Zealand must also consider instead of the "bread and circuses" of rugby. It's almost enough for me to wish for an All Blacks defeat to make the country confront the issues it must face!

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