New Zealand is part of a worldwide information and technology skill shortage and there is a danger the education sector will lag behind the opportunities in the "digital revolution", says Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce.
Giving the ministerial keynote at the NetHui internet conference this morning, Joyce said the country faced the challenge of getting more people into IT careers.
"There is a worldwide shortage of ICT skills currently and it's not getting any better and New Zealand is part of that. One of the challenges for all of us, particularly those of you who are evangelists for the digital revolution, is actually to get schools, people, students, families to get more focused on ICT careers because there is a danger that the focus on the skills, that will be required, lags [behind] the opportunities," he said.
Canvassing lightly over a number of topics during his 20-minute address, Joyce said innovation was crucial to New Zealand's development in an "economically treacherous" world.
Because of this "the internet and broadband and the way its run" was closely coupled to the country's future, he said.
During his previous term in office Joyce presided over the Government's $1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband (UFB) tender, the bulk of which was awarded to Telecom.
The Crown has teamed up with four private infrastructure partners for its UFB project, which will see fibre lines rolled out across New Zealand.
The initiative will offer 75 per cent of the country download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second by the end of 2019.
This is over 20 times faster than the average speeds enjoyed by urban internet users in 2010.
Joyce said 70,000 premises currently had fibre running past them and estimated this would rise to 235,000 premises by this time next year.
"The pace is picking up all the time," he said. Although there is concern that uptake of the UFB services is not strong.
Joyce said that in Whangarei - "most advanced area" of the rollout - about ten per cent of people were signing up, despite a number of big internet providers not offering services,
"It's a big build, it's moving along quietly but it's one of those things that is going to catch people out on what it is achieving," he said.