A coalition of NZ-owed tech firms has asked the government to take three measures - which it says will soften the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak on the local technology industry, and the wider economy.
NZRise co-chairs Victoria MacLennan and Breccan McLeod-Lundy have asked Communications Minister Kris Faafoi and Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford to:
1. Direct public service agencies and the wider state sector to purchase goods and services from New Zealand owned companies (a perennial theme of the ginger group as it battles what it sees as a "cultural cringe" that sees big chunks of Crown work going to multinationals, including those with patchy recent records);
2. Ensure agencies have funding and resources available to continue their business-as-usual work programmes alongside any coronavirus response in order to avoid sudden shocks to suppliers (including local IT service providers; and
3. Direct agencies to adopt flexible working, remote working and virtual team-based work practices to enable workers (government and supplier-employed) to continue working in isolation.
'Bums on seats' mentality must change
"At this point in time, should all work places and schools in Aotearoa be shut down with workers required to stay in isolation to avoid spread of Covid-19 much of the public service and many of those employed by companies supporting the public service – would be unable to work due to a lack of remote working technology in place, and the current practice of government demanding 'bums on seats' over remote working," MacLennan and McLeod-Lundy told the ministers.
They added, "These three measures will improve the financial security of our sector who would then be able to continue operating, employing staff and support government functions.
A policy-switch to support remote working would be low-cost, while favouring buying local IT products or services would actually boost the economy by increasing the tax take, NZRise argues.
A spokesman for Faafoi's office said the minister had received NZRise's letter. A response was still in the works.
Various sector groups are lobbying for coronavirus relief. Earlier, the government said it was putting together an $11 million package to offset the fallout from coronavirus and attract tourists from countries other than China.
Business leaders are urging the Government to directly support employers hit hardest by Covid-19, in the same way that wage subsidies were offered after the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes.
On Monday evening, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Minister of Economic Development Phil Twyford met Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope and Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff, along with hospitality and horticulture representatives.