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E- Vision - Digital Interactive Breakfast Series

Hon Paul Swain Speech
7:15 am E- Vision -The Digital Interactive Breakfast Series, (e)-Vision House, 2 Blair Street, Wellington

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning. In the time I've been given I want to talk specifically about what's happening in the e-environment as far as the government is concerned, to talk about some of the things I picked up from my trip and the implications for government policy work.

First then let me begin in areas relating to e-commerce.

It's been almost six months since we held the e-commerce summit in Auckland in November last year, and this is a good time to have a look at what has been achieved in that time.

At the summit the government launched the E-Commerce Strategy. The underlying driver for the strategy was the recognition that information communication technologies (ICT) and e-commerce capability are today core capabilities – not luxury ad ons – required to empower our citizens and businesses on and off shore to participate in the global economy.

The strategy identified three key commitments for government:
1. To provide providing leadership, by being a model user.
2. To recognise we have a key role in building the e-commerce capability of business, individuals and communities through active partnership.
3. To build an enabling regulatory environment.

So what has happened? Let's look at it commitment by commitment.

Providing leadership by being a model user.
For some time now we have had a very target focussed e-government unit sitting in the State Services Commission and reporting directly to the State Services Minister Trevor Mallard.

This unit has been working quietly but effectively to develop the e-government strategy. This strategy - I am pleased to tell you - will be launched on Thursday by the Prime Minister and the Minister of State Services.

We have taken the approach in New Zealand of thinking big, starting small and being ready to scale quickly. In the end I think the ability for New Zealand to be a world leader in this field is achievable because of this approach.

All government departments are being asked to regularly review and sharpen up the initiatives that were listed in the E-Commerce Strategy. This has formed the basis for the development of a government six-quarter action plan.

I am chairing a ministerial group of my colleagues - Jim Anderton, Michael Cullen, Steve Maharey, Trevor Mallard and Pete Hodgson - which is leading the digital initiatives.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet are co-ordinating the activities of officials across government departments in respect of advancing the wide range of policies and initiatives in the e-space.

The critical issue is access to bandwidth, particularly for rural and provincial New Zealand. More about this later.

Recognising government's role in building the e-commerce capability of business, individuals and communities through active partnerships.

One of the recommendations that came from the E-commerce Strategy was the formation of the E-commerce Action Team (ECAT). The team was formed in March this year, a mere four months after the summit. This indicates how serious we are about getting on and doing this work.

ECAT is a three-part partnership model between business, government and the wider community. It consists of a core team of sectoral representatives and e-commerce savvy individuals, a wider ECAT network and a web site. The aim of the core ECAT is to develop a six-quarter action plan that will strengthen awareness of and accelerate the adoption of e-commerce across NZ business, particularly small and medium businesses.

ECAT has two principal roles; helping to advance the government’s e-commerce strategy, and encouraging and promoting the adoption of e-commerce within the private sector.

Next month I hope to be able to announce the initial members of the ECAT network, a blend of regionally based groups interested in promoting e-commerce, individual businesses and individuals who are willing to provide resources on-line to help businesses interested in adopting e-commerce. The idea is to have a very inclusive network open to groups who want to promote the adoption of e-commerce.

I anticipate that groups like eVision and the 20:20Trust would have an interest in becoming a member of the ECAT network because of the work you are doing in helping communities and individuals improve their ability to strengthen economic and social well being through using ICT.

We’re also working with a number of regions to support them hold e-commerce events. The University of Waikato, who was a sponsor of the e-commerce summit, has continued its leadership by taking the initiative in respect of a Waikato ECAT which is planning a regional e-commerce event.

We are planning four or five regional e-commerce events this year alone.

It’s very pleasing to see the understanding that communities are developing about the importance of e-commerce for their regional competitiveness.

In terms of other policy areas which play a key role in supporting the development of New Zealand’s capability we have to focus on areas such as education, immigration and access to new technologies for people to be able to participate in the new economy.

The Minister in charge of Tertiary Education, through the work of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC), is looking at ways of making the tertiary education and training sector more responsive to the needs of our nation as a knowledge economy. Its initial report has been received; the complex area of developing new funding models is underway.

The Immigration Minister has announced plans to increase the annual number of skilled and business migrants able to enter New Zealand. The aim is to increase from 17 thousand to around 27 thousand a year.

The new target is aimed at ensuring that the New Zealand economy has the skills and entrepreneurial base it needs to develop high value industries and services in the 21st century.

The Research, Science and Technology Minister also announced a decision to set up a Crown Seed Capital Fund (CSCF) to accelerate development at the seed end of the New Zealand venture capital market. This fund will enable the government to co-invest with the private sector in venture capital funds that focus on new businesses based on technology and on high value-added products and services.

Ensuring an enabling regulatory environment.
It is important for New Zealand and New Zealanders to succeed in a new economy that they have the rules and regulations in place to enable them to do so. That was one of the major reasons for the Ministerial Inquiry into Telecommunications last year.

Using the principle of 'as much market as possible and as much government as necessary' the government's responses to that Inquiry are aimed at improving the regulatory regime for telecommunications.

We aim to ensure delivery of cost-efficient, timely and innovative telecommunication services on an ongoing, fair and equitable basis to all New Zealanders.

The measures include:
 The establishment of a new Telecommunications Commissioner operating from within the Commerce Commission;
 Regulation of key services including interconnection with Telecom's fixed telephone network and wholesaling of Telecom's fixed network services;
 An updated Kiwi Share, including bringing basic Internet access to virtually all New Zealanders by upgrading Telecom's network to provide 9.6kbps data capability to 99% and 14.4kbps to 95% of residential lines.

It is expected that legislation will be introduced next month and is planned to come into force in September. Preliminary work on appointing the Telecommunications Commissioner will start soon.

At the same time we have introduced moves to ensure an equivalent legal framework for electronic transactions and paper-based transactions. This is very important for encouraging suppliers and customers to adopt e-commerce. The Electronic Transactions Bill is currently before the select committee. Submissions have been received and hearings will commence this week. The Bill is likely to become law in the second half of this year.

I have also introduced legislation to fight hacking in New Zealand – that is before the Law and Order Select Committee now and due to report back by the end of May. The Associate Commerce Minister Laile Harre is working on improving our intellectual property law – an issue very dear to the heart of the ICT industry.

The Minister of Consumer Affairs is developing ways of improving consumer confidence by addressing security, privacy and consumer protection concerns.

Overseas trip.
I have recently returned from a trip to Chile, the UK, Ireland, and the USA to look at their telecommunication and information technology systems and venture capital opportunities.

I have returned convinced more than ever that we have a number of positive things to offer the international business community. We are a predominantly English speaking nation with a stable government and good working environment, we are in the right time zone and our education and skills are well regarded.

Those are all strong selling points – but we need to do more.

We need to encourage and promote entrepreneurship and we have to celebrate our business successes.

We need to be globally conscious – to think internationally in terms of both existing and new businesses.

We have to look at our New Zealand 'brand.' I think that alongside our 'clean green' image we can look at incorporating more of our ICT savviness and innovation when we're selling our country in the international market.

We have to focus on applying new technologies to business principles, encourage a start up culture and forge a much closer relationship between the tertiary and private sectors where ideas can be commercialised easier than they are now.

Critical issue
I have returned from overseas with the firm belief that the issue of ensuring bandwidth for New Zealand is critical for our ability to deliver on a lot of these e-initiatives.

I mentioned earlier, we are currently working on this under the auspices of the ministerial working party that I chair and announcements will be made shortly.

Our objective will be to ensure that all New Zealanders have high speed Internet access. This does not mean that in the first instance this will be available in everyone's home – that would be too costly in the short run.

Our first task is to conduct a stock take of different types of broad band options being pursued by different communities in New Zealand already.

Secondly, we will need to develop an education programme highlighting the importance of this issue for local communities. Finally we will need to facilitate where necessary, communities to come together to make the commercial viability of providing a bigger communications pipe into a town more feasible.

This will mean the retail sector, medical centre, schools, trucking company, library, community centre, marae, tourist operators, farmers and government agencies working together in a whole of community approach.

I am sure that the telecentre concept, like the one that I visited yesterday in Kapiti will be part of this model.

You maybe interested to learn that Masterton District Council is proposing such a community-wide approach. Among other things, the Council is looking at ensuring that all the schools are networked and can be used as e-learning centres. A major e-commerce initiative is being planned, and all residents will be given their own e-mail address.

The idea is these and other initiatives would spin off the bandwidth that is already available to at least one major business in the town. This is an exciting development.

I'm also investigating a concept called TickIT that has been developed by the Allied Print Media Training Council. TickIT is intended as a ground floor training programme for those who have no confidence or skills using new information communication technology (ICT). This idea is one way that we might be able to upskill the nation very quickly and allow people to progress on to more formal ICT qualification programmes.
Conclusion
These are just some of the initiatives that are being considered within the government at the moment.

The modernisation of the economy - the transformation from the old to the new is a key priority for this government. Making sure that New Zealand is online is a key part of that strategy and the government is committed to working with the private sector and communities and with organisations such as yours to make this a reality.

There is no time to lose. The future of New Zealand is at stake. Thanks for your attention.

Ends

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