2.1 New Zealand’s digital economy
The technology sector is New Zealand’s fastest growing sector and supports tens of thousands of jobs. Exports have doubled over the past six years and are now worth more than $6 billion. Within this, the digital economy and the weightless sector is now estimated to be worth $1.3 billion. It is the country’s third largest export earner behind dairy and tourism and touches on every other major market segment.
All around us massive leaps in technology are redefining frontiers of productivity. While some progress is being made in the fast growing ICT sector and there are promising areas of research, New Zealand continues to under-invest in research and development and is in danger of being left behind.
Technology is having an uneven impact on the nature of work in New Zealand. Recent research shows that small and medium sized enterprises are missing the tech wave with most stating it has little to no impact on their business. The Productivity Commission has found our businesses are not adapting their structures as quickly as their overseas counterparts.
New Zealand lacks a vision for how technology will support a smarter, higher value and fairer economy. There is no widely held, compelling vision for how New Zealand’s economy and society could guide choices about the future of work, or how society should adapt to massive technology change. Nor is there a roadmap of sound policy choices that will future-proof us and fulfil our potential as a small, smart country. To date, addressing the issues of disruptive technology change to business and jobs has been reactive and slow.
We have the opportunity to be extraordinarily successful at “riding the tiger” of innovation, if the vision, strategy and investment exists.
2.2 Work and workers
Wages and salaries in the ICT sector are twice the New Zealand average and are growing at a faster rate. Yet the sector faces an officially declared long-term skills shortage.
A recent NZTech member survey suggested there was a deficit of around 10,000 jobs. These are creative thinkers and business analysts who can help transform our businesses and institutions and make us a digital tech-savvy nation.
Workers of all generations want flexible working conditions and a flexible working environment. Younger workers rate flexible conditions twice as important as other work factors. Yet organisational practices are lagging behind technological change. Employers are often concerned about the costs flexible work can create and the additional management skills needed. There are also negatives to remote working such as loss of career and training opportunities and social isolation which need to be tackled.1
There has been considerable growth in digital work hubs – often called co-working – in our cities. Many of these hubs and co-working places are in city centres with a focus on highly curated, collaborative, innovative spaces (Biz Dojo, EPIC in Christ church, Waikato Innovation Park, Dunedin Centre for Innovation). We need such hubs in our provinces too.
1 Chandler Macleod, Talent Management: The Next Wave, http://www.chandlermacleod.com/media/chandler-macleod-2013/white%20papers/cm2016_08.14_whitepaper_talent%20management_interactive_aus.pdf