Greens push for Govt support in ICT sector

By Kate Shuttleworth

Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman outlined his party's plans for the ICT sector today, in Parliament. Photo / File
Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman outlined his party's plans for the ICT sector today, in Parliament. Photo / File

The Greens are pushing for better Government backing of information and communication technology in New Zealand, a sector they said is largely environmentally friendly, having weightless exports and low carbon emissions.

Greens' co-leader Russel Norman outlined his party's plans for the sector (ICT) in Parliament today, saying the Government should invest in a $100 million second fibre-optic cable system, and ensure it stays in New Zealand control.

Dr Norman said the single internet cable system connecting New Zealand to the rest of the world was holding the ICT sector back from growth.

He said having the single system reduced competition in terms of access to the rest of the world, and had forced up prices.

"We would propose that there wouldn't be any new spending in this, we would take it out of the existing infrastructure spend. With the Government spending $12 billion on motorways, if we were to spend 0.8 per cent of that on a cornerstone investment in a new cable that would be sufficient.

"When you think about it, $100 million is about 3.3 km of motorway. For about 3.3km of new motorway we can get about 1300km of fibre optic cable," said Dr Norman.

He said adding competition into the sector would result in faster and cheaper internet.

"Our reliance on a single provider for our internet means higher prices, data caps, and less innovation. This stifles the full economic potential of the ICT sector."

The Greens say growth of the ICT sector in New Zealand has been stunted by the the approach taken by Government in allocating its contracts.

Dr Norman said more support for the domestic ICT sector is needed.

"We've seen it with the Datacom-Novopay decision to give the contract to Novopay and the disaster that has come out of that, and we've also seen it with the Capgemini - which has the first part of the contract for Inland Revenue."

He said a problem with the contract for overhauling the ICT system at the Inland Revenue Department was that it was a large contact and inaccessible to local bidders.

"What we're saying is disaggregate some of the contracts, so that smaller and medium-sized ICT businesses can compete."

Lance Wiggs, a technology entrepreneur and internet commentator who was involved with Pacific Fibre's second internet cable bid, said he was not a member of the Green Party but supported the Greens' plans for the ICT sector in New Zealand.

Mr Wiggs said everybody thought they were doing the right thing when it came to Novopay.

"It's hard to describe Novopay without getting extraordinarily angry.

"We set them up to fail through the way our procurement works."

He said smaller companies needed to get a chance in bidding for contracts.

New Zealand's ICT sector

* About 2200 businesses in the sector employing 42,800 people and paying average hourly wages 28 per cent higher than the national average.

* The ICT sector is nearly seven times bigger than New Zealand's mining sector and employs five times more people than the mining sector.

* ICT exports have grown 80 per cent to $19.5 billion.

- APNZ

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