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Lockdown Lessons: Towards A More Productive Digital New Zealand Economy

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) has released a new report on the opportunity New Zealand now has to transform its economy and boost productivity at pace through increased digital adoption as we come out of lockdown. The report also outlines the role that BNZ intends to play in helping bring this about.

BNZ CEO, Angie Mentis, says “We are going through one of the most challenging periods in living memory. While the impacts of COVID-19 are clearly extremely difficult, a silver lining has been the acceleration of digital adoption in a way we could never have foreseen.

“Now is the right time to ask ourselves if we can build on this to improve our economic performance for the betterment of all New Zealanders.

“We have known for a long time that digital adoption is an essential key to lifting our productivity, our incomes and our wellbeing and now is the time to walk the talk. It allows us to connect with more businesses and customers around the world, and here at home. It allows us to run our businesses more efficiently and to reduce our carbon footprint.

“New Zealand has invested in the infrastructure to deliver high speed broadband but enabling the use of digital technology is also about investing in the right skills. The most brilliant innovation is of no use at all if we lack the skills to use it. We need to invest in the skills of New Zealanders to make the most of digital technology.

“There are many good ideas emerging on areas in which we can develop specialised clusters of world-leading firms here in New Zealand. Microsoft’s announcement to base a new datacentre here also highlights New Zealand’s appeal to top global firms.

“As well as developing these opportunities, we must also work to encourage our small and medium sized enterprises to lift their productivity. Without the SME part of the puzzle, we run the risk of creating a ‘two-speed’ economy that worsens inequality.

“Our report details the opportunity for creating a more digitally-enabled, globally-focused economy. To help with this, BNZ is going to measure and help improve the digital skills and capabilities of Kiwis with the aim of improving productivity, financial capability and societal wellbeing in New Zealand.

“We look forward to working with government and other businesses as we do our bit to create and drive these changes,” says Mentis.

BNZ economist and report author, Paul Conway, says, “New Zealand is a small and isolated economy, which means our companies are often not well-integrated into international markets, and domestic companies can often be insulated from new technologies and competitive forces.

“Digital technologies can help us overcome these challenges, connecting us more closely with the world and helping us work smarter, not harder. In many ways, the things that make us unique as a country and an economy also make us uniquely suited to a digital future.

“As we rebuild our economy in the wake of the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to build a stronger economy that delivers for all New Zealanders. Embedding digital technology in our economy and building digital skills needs to be a cornerstone in our recovery efforts.

“To help, we are building indicators of digital capability across New Zealand SMEs and individuals. This will give a rich picture of digital skills and inclusion and provide a unifying framework to align and target the efforts of investors in digital inclusion initiatives.

“We know we cannot do this alone, so we are forming a partnership of organisations aligned on the common goal of improving the digital capabilities of New Zealanders.,” says Conway.

This partnership includes the Government, with the Department of Internal Affairs acting as the focal point for an all of government engagement.

BNZ has committed to playing its part in this agenda, supporting a digital skills movement and a digital transformation agenda in businesses to enable a high achieving New Zealand. The bank plans to work with other like-minded organisations to help drive this forward and will continue to publish research on the topic and progress.

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