The Government released Te Rautaki Matihiko mо̄ Aotearoa – the Digital Strategy for Aotearoa in mid-September.

This is long overdue. The last substantive digital strategy was introduced in 2005 and updated in 2008. INZ welcomes the strategy as a mid-term response to the pace and scale of technological advancement and the way we use technology.

Digital and data-driven technologies offer huge and much needed productivity enabling potential for New Zealand. As companies like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud invest in New Zealand, getting our regulatory settings, strategic direction and skills mix right is vital to realising the full benefits of a digitally connected society. 

The strategy’s three interconnected key pillars of trust, inclusion and growth, support its vision of ‘enabling Aotearoa New Zealand’s people, communities, economy and environment to flourish and prosper in a digital era’. This work is underpinned by a focus on skills and education, sustainability, digital infrastructure and Te Tiriti principles.

The Strategy’s initial flagship initiatives include:

  • The Digital Boost programme
  • Improving rural connectivity
  • Accelerating Māori innovation
  • The Christchurch Call
  • New Zealand’s Cyber Security Strategy
  • Data as a tool for decision-making and wellbeing
  • Innovation Development Grant
  • Māori Data Governance
  • Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan
  • Digital Identity Services Trust Framework
  • And Te Ara Paerangi — Future Pathways.

In our submission on the strategy’s discussion document, Towards a Digital Strategy for Aotearoa, we underlined the importance of emphasising infrastructure. In particular, the role of technology such as digital twins in infrastructure solutions, was front of mind as a lever for addressing our infrastructure deficit more effectively and efficiently.

We are encouraged by the strategy’s case study on Dunedin’s new outpatient building and the potential for the use of digital twin technology, as well as its support of programmes such as Construction Boost 2.0. We encourage the Government to further this focus alongside other work programmes such as the Building Consent System Review, work on open data standards and supporting cultural change to foster an innovative construction ecosystem.

Our submission was informed by attendees at the Infrastructure New Zealand Leaders’ Lunch event with Hon Dr David Clark, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications in August 2021. Members’ feedback was captured in the Government’s summary of public engagement and informed the development of the final strategy. We welcome the Minister and cross-agency team’s willingness to engage with the infrastructure sector and are pleased that our feedback has been incorporated into the final version of the strategy. 

A newly created Digital Executive Board will have the lead role of working with their government agencies, and be collectively responsible for ensuring the intent of the strategy is realised. Further work underway to finalise the governance structure for the oversight of the Digital Strategy will be important to ensuring the best outcomes for New Zealanders.

We are also encouraged by the recognition of the need to periodically update the strategy and its measures of success as a living document. The strategy outlines that its action plan for implementation will be updated every 12-18 months to reflect the rapid pace of technological change. Our submission outlined the importance of treating the strategy as a living document for this reason.

We will continue our analysis and advocacy as it relates to the strategy’s implementation. Ongoing engagement will be critical to the success of responsiveness of the changes made to the measures of success in the action plan. We encourage the Government to test changes with a wide range of sectors to ensure they are fit for purpose.

The strategy sets the vision for a world-leading, innovative and inclusive digital New Zealand. We are encouraged by the Government’s willingness to engage with the complexities of technological change and look forward to engaging on its implementation on behalf of INZ members.