A new digital strategy to increase the skills of young people and small business owners is being introduced in the Western Bay of Plenty.

The Digital Enablement Plan - being implemented by Tauranga's Venture Centre - will be officially launched as part of Techweek, beginning May 11 at Toi Tauranga Art Gallery.

The project's origins go back to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment's call in 2015 for local councils to submit digital strategy plans to ensure communities would make use of expanded access to ultra fast fibre broadband connections.

Tauranga City Council strategic planner Ross Hudson said both the Tauranga City and the Western Bay District councils worked with local agencies and experts to develop the plan.


Venture Centre won the request for proposals to lead the implementation. The councils' investment would initially cover an 18-month period, after which the project's success would be reviewed. Mr Hudson said final costs had yet to be settled, but would be split equally across the two councils.

Venture Centre co-founder Jo Allum said its team conducted research last year, including interviews with small and medium-sized businesses, before starting the project.

"We found a large proportion of owners were using digital tools and services, but not necessarily reaping the rewards in terms of more automation, increased custom and revenue, and access to new markets," she said.

The research also found digital service providers believed there were issues in persuading clients to adopt more automation, marketing, and other tools to do business better.

Mr Hudson said in the initial stage, the council was working with the Venture Centre to run business-owner workshops. These would take place in Mount Maunganui, Te Puke, Katikati and Papamoa.

Ms Allum said the overall goal was to nurture a prosperous region where everyone had the opportunity to access and benefit from digital technologies.

"It's a privilege to work on this project," she said. "Our team and the community we've been working with since launching in 2014, have been actively supporting the digital upskilling of young people, business owners and entrepreneurs.

"This project provides the means to amplify this work. And that of the 100-plus creative digital service providers working hard to make sure the future is indeed digital and entrepreneurially driven in Tauranga and Western Bay."

Expanding ultra fast fibre

- In January, the Government announced it would invest a further $17 million between 2017 and 2024 to bring UFB broadband coverage to more than 80 per cent of the Western Bay of Plenty's population.