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Launch Of Regional E-Commerce Road Show - Swain

Hon Paul Swain Speech Notes

Launch Of Regional E-Commerce Road Show - Waikato University - Embargoed To 0900

I'm thrilled to be here today to be part of the first ever regional e-commerce summit in New Zealand.

I want to especially congratulate the University of Waikato Management School and the initiative shown by Waikato leaders in setting up the Waikato ECAT, or WECAT - Waikato E-Commerce Action Team.

Waikato is showing the way for other regions. This is the kind of regional leadership we are looking for. I came here last year to officially launch the new E-Commerce Degree at Waikato Management School and it is fitting that today we launch the ECAT network here.

E-Commerce Summit

It is seven months since hundreds of businesses came from around New Zealand to join the government at the E-Commerce Summit in Auckland.

One of the purposes of the summit was to launch the government's strategy to achieve our vision of New Zealand being world-class in embracing e-commerce for competitive advantage.

We defined e-commerce as being about undertaking business processes in a networked electronic environment.

We were not just talking about business advertising or consumers buying on the Internet.

E-commerce is about businesses changing the way they do business. It is about integrating the new information and communication technologies into business systems. It is about New Zealand overcoming the tyranny of distance and being able to compete more effectively on the international stage.

Ultimately it is about more jobs and better living standards for all New Zealanders and we are way on the way to achieving that.

An effective E-Commerce Strategy is essential for addressing one of the greatest challenges facing New Zealand right now - the modernisation of our economy.

We do have some advantages. We are a predominantly English speaking nation with a stable government and good working environment. We are in the right time zone, have good infrastructure by and large and our education and skills are well regarded.

But we have to change from a country that is overly dependent on commodities to one where information and knowledge both add and generate value for traditional and new products and services.

We've got to be world class and in the end world leaders of the new economy and we're on a path to achieving this.

The most important thing we did was to reject the old, last century thinking that governments have no role in economic development. They do. This government has rolled its sleeves up, and is working in partnership with business, tertiary institutions and communities to provide opportunities for all New Zealanders.

The E-Commerce Summit last year was an example of that partnership.

The key message from those who attended the Summit and gave feedback on the E-Commerce Strategy was "a good start but get cracking."

We took that message seriously and today I want to report on what the government has been doing since the summit that has led us to this event today.

E-Commerce Strategy

The E-Commerce Strategy launched at the E-Commerce Summit identified three clear objectives for the government. Let's look at each one and what we have done.

Providing leadership

Our first key objective was that the government would provide leadership, by being a model user.

The E-Government Strategy released earlier this year sets out a plan to work towards New Zealand being a world leader in e-government. By 2004 the Internet will be the dominant means of enabling ready access to government information, services and processes.

The strategy outlines specific deliverables and milestones that will be reviewed and updated every six months.

Some of the immediate deliverables which are underway or about to happen are:

- A Secure Electronic Environment and Public Key Infrastructure policy to enable information to be shared and transactions to take place in a secure environment.

- A web-portal strategy and standards have been developed to be consistently applied across government to ensure online information and services are designed from the user's perspective and are easily integrated.

- A framework for agencies to publish government forms online

- An e-procurement strategy and pilot to move government purchasing processes online.

By January next year some of the key targets are:

- A new government web portal as the primary entry point to government online

- An e-billing pilot to test the benefits for customers of being able to pay their bills with government online

- A change of address strategy and implementation plan so customers can advise government online when they move.

And by June 2001 we will have an authentication policy to ensure appropriate identification and protection of customers.

On the basis of thinking big, starting small and scaling quickly you will see very good progress being made over the next year.

Enabling regulatory environment

The second objective of the e-commerce strategy was for the government to provide an enabling regulatory environment to promote e-commerce.

The telecommunications industry is the backbone of the new economy, the platform from which many of the private and public sector initiatives are launched.

Since Telecom was privatised in 1989 there have been success stories in this important industry however it's also been an industry beset with argument and litigation.

The fact is that the consumer and New Zealand should be getting a better deal that is why we introduced the Telecommunications Bill in May.

The Bill is now in the Commerce Select Committee and is receiving submissions. Our objective is to encourage greater competition and more investment in this industry, and a better deal for consumers.

The key elements of the Telecommunications Bill are:

- 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, wholesaling of Telecom's fixed network services, fixed to mobile and number portability.

- 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.

While this is before the select committee, the work has already started. Adverts for a Telecommunications Commissioner have been placed here and overseas. The question of industry contribution to the kiwi share is being addressed, as is the contribution that each carrier will make to the funding of the Telecommunications Commissioner. And an economic study on number portability is underway.

My expectation is that the legislation will pass by September with the Telecommunications Commissioner starting a few weeks after that. This is a significant breakthrough in this industry and my hopes are high for major improvements in the infrastructure over the next few years.

Broadband

Turning now to the issue of high-speed Internet access. This is an issue of particular importance to New Zealanders living outside the main cities.

You may be aware that I chair a group of ministers who are involved in what we consider to be our digital initiatives.

This group includes Jim Anderton - regional economic development, Steve Maharey - tertiary education, Trevor Mallard - e-government and education and Pete Hodgson - industry assistance and research, science and technology.

We have identified broadband as our key issue and will be setting bold targets for all New Zealanders to have high-speed Internet access.

We need to be able to market New Zealand as a place where you can work, play or learn with the same high-speed Internet access as you would have in any of the major cities. This is a big challenge for us but we must do it.

We are currently determining the role of government in this area it could include:

- Promoting the business case for improved regional infrastructure.

- Identifying the local commitment to delivery.

- Aggregating public sector demand for high-speed Internet services

- Facilitating, where necessary, the bundling of local demand in consultation with local government.

- And using in a smart and intelligent way the instruments the government has at its disposal including BCL and spectrum.

More details on this will be announced in August.

Legislation

At the same time we are working on ensuring an equivalent legal framework for electronic transactions and paper-based transactions through the Electronic Transactions Bill. The Bill has the effect of modifying thousands of statutory requirements for writing, signature and retention and production of information so that these can be met using electronic methods. The benefits will be:

- reduced compliance costs for business, as paper-based processes can be switched to electronic;

- the enabling of a whole new phase of e-government not previously possible because of the paper-bias of many statutes; and

- enhancing New Zealand's international profile as being up with the e-commerce leaders.

The Bill has been reported back by the Commerce Select Committee and is likely to become law in the second half of this year.

I have also introduced legislation to fight hacking in New Zealand - which is before the Law and Order Select Committee now and due to report back next month. 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.

Building e-commerce capability

The third objective of the E-Commerce Strategy was to build e-commerce capability across New Zealand.

In the E-Commerce Strategy we said we would:

- Facilitate building business e-commerce skills

- Work to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to life-long learning opportunities to develop ICT skills for the 21st century.

- Build broader ICT literacy and capability in the community

Critical to the advancement of these things was the formation of the E-commerce Action Team (ECAT). That team was formed in March this year and has been meeting regularly.

The core ECAT is a partnership between the public sector, tertiary sector and business and includes representatives from across those sectors who have a strong interest in e-commerce.

The aim of the core ECAT group has been 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.

When I set up the ECAT Core Group, it was equally clear that we wanted to find a way of involving as many New Zealanders as possible - we wanted to capture the energy and goodwill so evident at the summit.

The first initiative we have taken is - in partnership with local communities - to promote local e-commerce initiatives or activities. Like that which we are taking part in today.

The second, and obvious tool, is the Internet itself. And so the idea for the ECAT Network we are launching here today was born.

ECAT network

The ECAT Core Group is the formal part of ECAT.

The ECAT Network is a more informal means of connecting the whole range of groups, businesses and individuals that have an interest in driving the uptake of e-commerce in New Zealand.

Importantly, membership is self-selecting - anyone with an interest in e-commerce and the use of information and communications generally can be a member of this virtual community.

The central purpose of the Network is to act as a channel for sharing information, expertise and solutions.

If there is a group in Kaitaia who want to organise some e-commerce training for themselves, we want that group as a member of the Network. If there is a business in Westport exploring the use of the web for exporting, they can be a member of the Network.

The Network will assist in raising the visibility of local, regional and sector e-commerce initiatives.

It will be a means of utilising the expertise of local and sector leaders to drive the uptake of e-commerce and greater use of the Internet.

The success of the Network very much depends on the willingness of members to contribute and collaborate.

As of today more than 20 organisations, businesses and individuals have registered as Network members, this group includes university researchers, small businesses, regional economic development organisations and groups like the Waikato ECAT.

The ECAT Network is supported by the ECAT web site, www.ecat.govt.nz. Here you will find a wealth of information, much of it provided voluntarily by the members. I am delighted to be launching the Network today, and I look forward to the Network growing, and acting as a real catalyst for e-commerce in New Zealand. I encourage all of you to use the resources, and to join the Network, which you can do online through the web site.

Research

One of our promises at the e-commerce summit was that we would be engaging in research so that we have a base to work from.

The E-commerce Strategy recognised that there was a need for more accurate information the levels of e-commerce in New Zealand about the impact e-commerce is having on society. The government has commissioned a number of projects in order to address this need.

(i) Waikato University has been conducting a major study of e-business impact in New Zealand.

(ii) MED has commissioned some further survey work from the Waikato researchers to assess the level of 'netreadiness' in certain key industry groups. The first results should be available by mid-July.

(iii) The IRD, co-sponsored by MED, has commissioned a survey to determine the level of business activity relating to e-commerce. Results from this survey should be available sometime in July.

(iv) MED is commissioning an analytical study of the macroeconomic effects of the application of information and communications technologies.

(v) MED and Statistics New Zealand have been for some time planning a major survey of business capability, looking at business planning processes, management capabilities and other factors. This survey will start at the end of July, and preliminary reports should be available around October this year. A full report will be available in March 2002.

Other government work

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. One of the targets is to increase the level of skilled knowledge workers that New Zealand desperately needs to attract in the short term but must produce ourselves in the long term.

The Research, Science and Technology Minister has established 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. There is also work being done on developing an incubator programme.

The government has committed $10 million to four education-based pilots to test and develop IT delivery systems and give professional development for teachers.

The projects include:

- The ICT Technology Training pilot project - providing five low decile secondary schools in West Auckland and Gisborne with technology training and qualifications.

- The Learning Communities pilot project - 10 schools in the Far North will get access to computer based bilingual learning resources and good quality Internet connections.

- ICT Boosted Study Support Centre pilot - this project provides three study support centres in Southland and Canterbury with an ICT boost.

- Lap-tops for Teachers and Senior Students pilot project - teachers and some students in four low decile Hutt Valley schools have been given access to lap top computers and software, good quality Internet connections and training.

Industry New Zealand through the Biz Programme will be offering e-commerce seminars from September. These are entry-level seminars aimed at small and medium businesses. The seminars have been piloted and have received a good response.

Conclusion

You can see that we have been pretty busy in the last seven months but there is still a lot more to do. I do want to congratulate Waikato on being the first region to host one of these regional electronic commerce events. Over the next few weeks there will also be ones in the Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki.

Getting the message out through regional events such as this is critical to the development of e-commerce in New Zealand.

I particularly want to congratulate the Waikato Management School here at Waikato University for their leadership.

I think what we are demonstrating here is that the government, private sector and tertiary institutions must work together to achieve our vision of New Zealand being world-class in embracing e-commerce for competitive advantage.

I have great pleasure in opening the E-Waikato Summit and launching the

ECAT network - thank you for your attention.

Ends


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