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The government's e-commerce strategy.

1 November 2000
The government's e-commerce strategy.

Today is a very exciting occasion for me. It’s not often that a Minister has the opportunity to launch a strategy on such an important issue, at an event of this scope, with such talent in attendance.

I am going to begin with our e-commerce Vision. This I believe encapsulates what the strategy and this summit are all about:

“New Zealand will be world class in embracing electronic commerce for competitive advantage.”

The phrase competitive advantage is key. Electronic commerce is driven by technology, but it is not about technology.

E-commerce is about business, the whole business - and indeed the whole economy. It is important for you as individuals, as business representatives and as members of families and communities. It is important to New Zealand as a country. It presents enormous opportunities. It also presents potentially large risks to the competitive advantages you may have today.

We have just heard from John Sifonis and Don Tapscott. They told us that a small technology savvy country like New Zealand is more than capable of succeeding in the new environment. Indeed in the fast paced world of e-commerce, our small size and our flexibility can be turned to great advantage.

Don Tapscott has noted that “The question facing leaders and managers is not just - what is driving change in the economy today? But also and more importantly - what should I do to respond to all these changes?”

E-commerce: Building the strategy for New Zealand represents the Government’s response - it is a statement of the government's commitment to leadership.

A lot has been said in the last year or so about the knowledge economy, or the new economy. The government is committed to building a knowledge-based economy in New Zealand. We want more software developers, web site designers, scientists and engineers. A lot more.
But it is not a matter of choosing one type of industry over another. The knowledge economy is about enhancing the performance of the whole economy.

The more New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses who are connected into global networks, the greater the potential value. So whether you are a Southland farmer or a Takapuna software developer, the e-commerce strategy is about all of us.

As I have met and talked with people over the last six months, what never fails to amaze me is the ability of New Zealanders to do great things. Even more amazing is that we don’t like to talk about it.

The Australian’s of course have been crowing about how their businesses are all wired up for e-commerce. Yet a recent survey of 506 businesses by BRC marketing and Social Research last month shows that we New Zealanders are beating the Aussies all ends up.

More of our businesses have computers, more are connected, more are using e-commerce and we have cheaper broadband access. The statistical report you have in your satchels gives you the figures.

The reality is that New Zealand has a great foundation for e-commerce. And with the Southern Cross cable coming on stream in the near future, we also have a big fat pipe to the rest of the world.

But it is only a foundation, and we have not yet got laurels on which to rest.

Let me now take you briefly through the chief parts of the Strategy. I want to emphasise at the outset that this not a strategy engraved in stone - it is a living document, which will be informed by ongoing feedback.

Vision, goals and principles
The Vision represents an outcome, and a commitment to achieving that outcome. In the coming year I will be championing the vision across the country.

Supporting the vision are a number of goals. These are the areas we need to concentrate on to achieve the vision. They include the goal of capitalising fully on our competitive advantages in a networked world, and providing a supportive environment for enterprise and innovation.

Strengths and weaknesses - it is important that any strategy be based on an analysis of our strengths and weaknesses. We need to be clear about the new opportunities. We also need to understand the risks if we do not respond. I have already talked about our strengths. We have a good foundation.

Our key weakness is the lack of in-depth use of e-commerce. While we are users, we are not sophisticated users. Not enough of us understand what a big deal this is. Many traditional advisers lack this expertise. This weakness is something that both government and business have to address.

Principles - it is important that when addressing e-commerce issues that government be guided by clear principles. Key among these are:
• leadership is a shared responsibility between government, business, and the broader community;
• human capability is the key area for investment; and
• government is committed to an open competitive environment in which e-commerce can flourish. It is up to business to make the choices about technology.

The strategy’s vision, principles and goals describe a framework and the direction we should take. However, from the beginning I wanted the strategy to contain some firm commitments to those actions seen as essential, in order to achieve the vision.

The way forward
These commitments are listed in the section called “The Way Forward”. They fall into three broad areas:
First - the government is committed to providing leadership, by walking the talk in its own activities, by communicating the significance of e-commerce to the wider public, and in carrying out appropriate research.

Second - the government recognises it has a key role in building the e-commerce capability of business, individuals and communities.

Thirdly - the government is committed to building an enabling regulatory environment. Among other things this means ensuring the law is up to date, ensuring there is adequate infrastructure, and promoting New Zealand’s interests internationally.

In each of these areas there are quite a few specific commitments. I will highlight just a few of these now.

A key role of government has always been to provide information. This is particularly important in a time of great change. Business and individuals cannot take advantage of the opportunities or guard against the risks if they don’t know about them. We want businesses making well researched informed choices.

To this end the government, in partnership with the private sector, will champion e-commerce across the community.

This summit and strategy are the first steps. In the New Year the key messages from the e-commerce summit will be taken to the regions through a series of workshops. As well we will redevelop the government’s e-commerce web site to provide better information, and we have already published E-commerce : A guide for Business, which you have a copy of in your satchels.

Excellent research is crucial, and has been lacking so far. To fill this gap the government will identify a research programme to better measure the uptake of e-commerce, improve our understanding of what hinders business uptake, and benchmark New Zealand against the rest of the world.

E-commerce cuts across the whole of the economy, and the whole of government. Some of the significance of the strategy is that it is a commitment by government to consider the e-commerce angle across the whole range of its other activities. In terms of social policy, this includes work on digital divide issues.

At a third of GDP, government activity is a huge part of the economy. It is therefore essential that government walk the talk. Government will lead by example through e-government, e-procurement being a priority. In this context the government is committed to using online technologies to deliver better quality, cheaper and faster services to its citizens, as well as providing opportunities for New Zealand businesses.

The State Services Commission has already been funded to develop a strategy for e-government. The e-government unit has been up and running since July. Already it has identified a range of projects and set targets for rollout. These are highlighted in the strategy document.

Building Capability
Human and business capability are crucial areas for investment. Lifelong education is the key to wealth creation and improved economic and social performance. Building business skills in e-commerce and other technologies in small and medium businesses is an immediate priority.

The private sector and tertiary education have vital roles to play alongside government in developing these skills.

Government already makes a significant commitment to building business capability through a range of organisations, including Trade New Zealand, Industry New Zealand, and the BIZ programme. The thrust of the strategy is to ensure these organisations extend their programmes to include delivery of e-commerce focused training.

The government is committed to ensuring a continued supply of skilled people. But it recognises that New Zealand now operates in a highly competitive international market for skills. In response the government will develop a coordinated international marketing approach to attract people with e-commerce and related information skills to New Zealand.

Digital literacy will be crucial in the 21st century. This is the ability to use information and communication technologies (or ICTs) to best advantage. The government will work to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to opportunities to develop these skills, both through formal education and at the community level.

The strategy identifies a range of areas where the government is committed to taking action. These include:
- ensuring that all teachers are equipped with the skills to use ICT in the learning situation;
- promoting the use of ICTs across the curriculum;
- working with the telecommunications industry to ensure that every school has adequate Internet access; and
- exploring innovative ways to facilitate the provision by the private sector of better access to electronic communications services in rural communities.

Regulatory Environment
The regulatory environment must support the growth of e-commerce. It is more than the legal framework, and includes trade policy, tax policy, industry specific regulation and consumer policy. In many respects this is the hidden work of government - unglamorous but crucial.

Ensuring that the regulatory environment keeps pace with technology is a complex job. Initiatives include the Telecommunications Inquiry and the development of an e-commerce code for consumer protection in partnership with the private sector.

A significant initiative is the Electronic Transactions Bill. Yesterday the Bill was introduced into Parliament. This is the culmination of work begun by the Law Commission three years ago. In the last six months it has required that every piece of legislation on the statute books be reviewed. If you are a lawyer you will appreciate just what a task that is.

Passing of the Electronic Transactions Bill will create certainty about the status of electronic transactions. That is critical for the development of e-commerce in New Zealand.

Partnership is a cornerstone of the strategy.

Partnership is about drawing on the ideas and capabilities of society as a whole. In the new economy, partnership is about drawing on the power of the network to deliver fast and flexible solutions.

The government recognises that we are in a fast changing environment, and that the best strategy is one based on collaboration and feedback. That is why the strategy document is called “Building a Strategy for New Zealand”
We are genuine when say we are building a strategy. That’s why government, Ministers and the summit sponsors have put so much effort into both the summit and the strategy, and are spending this afternoon in seeking your comments and feedback.

Electronic Commerce Action Team
But the partnership doesn’t end here tomorrow.

After the summit the government will establish an E-Commerce Action Team to support implementation of the strategy. I want this to be a business-focussed group.

The Action Team will have a key role in identifying targets for e-commerce uptake, and monitoring and measuring their achievement. It will coordinate efforts to facilitate uptake of e-commerce, identify a core research programme, coordinate feedback and provide advice to government.

The strategy is about government being committed to doing its part, in terms of leadership, building capability, and an enabling regulatory environment. It is committed to doing this in partnership with the private sector and the broader community.

But achieving the vision, that New Zealand will be world class in the use of e-commerce for competitive advantage, is not the responsibility of government alone. It is the responsibility of us all.

Business especially has the most important role to play. Many businesses are already displaying a high degree of innovation, enterprise and attitude. But we need a lot more.

Innovation is doing things in a new way - being creative and applying new technology. Enterprise is about taking risks and looking for new opportunities. And attitude is having a global outlook, taking the world on, and believing in ourselves as New Zealanders and our ability to succeed.

So, with attitude in mind, I invite you in the next session to tell us what you think.
Is this the right vision? Have we properly identified roles of government? Have we got the commitments right? What’s missing? And most importantly, what is your role in all of this? What are you going to do in this summit, and in the coming months, to make this vision a reality for all New Zealanders?

We invite and value your feedback and participation. Thank-you.

Summit site:

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