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UPDATED: Election 2020 - Which parties care about tech's role in New Zealand

By Sara Barker
Tue 6 Oct 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Editor's note: This story was updated on 12 October to include new information from the Labour Party's internet infrastructure and rural connectivity announcement on 10 October.

New Zealand’s technology sector contributes and creates close to 3000 jobs in the tech sector alone, according to 2019 figures from NZTech. Technology should be flying high when it comes to government investment and commitment from New Zealand's political parties.

The National Party recently outlined its technology policies with a $1.2 billion investment promise and a focus on creating a Minister for Technology, 100 Mbps internet speeds and more investment funds for startups.

While the National Party is one - if not the only - party actively promoting its tech policies, other parties bring plenty to the table. We take a look at what they have to offer.

This information is compiled from emailed responses and information provided on the parties’ websites. It is by no means a comprehensive view of every party's position on technology, and we urge voters to take the time to read the policies in detail.

ACT Party

The ACT Party has barely a whiff of technology in its policies, except to specify that the Harmful Digital Communications Act only applies if the complainant is under 18 years of age.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act, brought into law in 2015, aims to protect New Zealanders against online bullying, distressing or threatening photographs, material, or messages. Those found in breach of the Act could face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to $50,000.

Netsafe figures show that there 576 breaches of principles within the Act for the period between April and June 2020, a 36.5% increase from the previous quarter. 

Under ACT's policy, New Zealanders over 18 would not be protected by the Act.

Green Party

The Green Party weaves technology through three policies: The ICT Policy, its Privacy and Security Services Policy, and its Research, Science, and Technology Policy. These three policies provide a comprehensive overview of the party's approach to technology; however, the party does not provide costings for many of its pledges. We have selected some of the main themes across all of these policies.

Green Party - ICT Policy

The party declares that ICT should benefit New Zealand by improving access to information, facilitating communication and learning, improving productivity and efficiency, and decreasing overall resource use.

ICT should provide benefits to all areas of society and should not be used to create or deepen existing inequality. Further, the party encourages greater use of free and open source software, with government leading the charge.

Growth & development: The party would support the development of independent software ventures to grow the ICT industry. It would also support the development and maintenance of ICT systems by New Zealand companies. The party would limit foreign ownership of New Zealand’s telecommunications infrastructure.

ICT security: This would be maintained through a combination of regulation and education, recognising that ICT must protect users’ privacy and security. Amongst its policies, the party would require ICT vendors to disclose vulnerabilities in their products so users can take action. The party would also prohibit vendors from knowingly allowing methods to circumvent their products or services.

The party also considers aspects of ICT, including safety issues, education and skills support, digital rights, internet content management, and privacy.

Green Party - Security Services Policy

This policy outlines how New Zealand’s intelligence agencies should be managed, as well as fundamental principles around privacy and surveillance.

The party believes that personal surveillance activities are undermining privacy. Surveillance includes the use of fingerprinting, biometrics, and electronic communications monitoring.

The party also submits that when information is stored in a database, there is the possibility that the data could be stored indefinitely. As such, information and data should be collected, stored and treated ethically, and information stored on government databases is available for New Zealanders to access.

The party also outlines 37 policy positions on topics including scrutiny of state surveillance powers and information sharing; the opposition of a universal identification or card system; restrictions on people ‘profiling’; regulating the use of tracking devices on products that could interfere with privacy; requiring that all data held by the Government is stored on servers within New Zealand; opposition to legal requirements that could force devices to have built-in backdoors, and opposition to state-backed hacking of computer systems without warrants.

Green Party - Research, Science and Technology Policy

This deals primarily with how science and technology can help to deliver ethical and sustainable solutions that benefit New Zealand. The party supports more public funding and foreign investment into R&D, with added private sector funding, particularly for smaller businesses. 

Labour Party

The Labour Party does not have a dedicated technology policy, although the party has dropped a couple of tech-related announcements. 

The party pledges a $60 million infrastructure fund for capacity and backhaul upgrades, which will boost connectivity across the country.  The party is also allocating $10 million to open up the radio spectrum, in an effort to boost wireless broadband coverage in rural areas.

"Digital connectivity is more important than ever as New Zealand makes a successful economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, and the Labour Party is committed to investing in world class digital infrastructure to support that," says Labour’s communications spokesperson Kris Faafoi.

The party also promises major investment in technology for New Zealand small businesses. The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Policy focuses on enabling small businesses with access to finance and technology. This policy promises a $75 million investment in digital training courses for SMEs with up to 20 staff. The investment will span two years and focuses on introducing businesses to digital technologies.

“Training will include both general digital skills and training that is tailored to a particular industry. We’ll also establish a long term strategy to promote business uptake of digital technology.”

Māori Party 

While it has no specific technology policy, the party aims to tackle the digital divide, particularly for young Māori, so that they have access to opportunities that the digital world provides.

The party is committed to funding digital learning devices and internet access for all students that need them.

ONE Party

ONE Party does not have a technology policy. It does, however, point to the need for education to create a society that can think critically and creatively. It also alludes to 21st Century challenges such as technology developments like artificial intelligence and robotics, as well as human potential. The party maintains that parents must take responsibility for educating their children in these matters.

The party also supports “funding technology, innovative or visionary institutes and think-tanks to develop entrepreneurs and market innovators.”

The Opportunities Party (TOP)

The party has two policies that promote technology use – the Innovation Policy and the COVID-19 Recovery Plan for Small Business.

The party aims to help New Zealand develop world-class capabilities in infrastructure, training, and R&D, of which technology will play a major role.

The Innovation Policy explains how research and technology are key drivers of innovation. It explains how countries such as Singapore, Ireland, Israel, and other countries have achieved more economic growth and success, due in part to their investments in technology.

The policy also focuses on technology foresight – that is, determining probable technology benefits that could help to make the best use of limited public R&D spending.

The COVID-19 Recovery Plan for Small Business includes a commitment to offering grants of $10,000 to help businesses invest in equipment, an online presence, or an eCommerce platform.

Further, the party would offer bulk discounts to cloud computing, increasing access to coding and development courses, and helping more local businesses with gaining procurement opportunities within the public sector.

Social Credit Party

Its SME Policy makes brief mention of interest-free and low-interest loans designed to help establish new businesses and the new technologies they develop.

Sustainable New Zealand Party

Technology is embedded in the party's Innovation Plan. The basis of this plan is that New Zealand’s economy has been stifled due to several factors such as few export firms, and less investment into a knowledge economy and technology exports compared to other countries.

The party plans to invest more in R&D to support agritech, biotech, and nanotech. The party also proposes Technology transfer Organisations that encourage collaboration between the private sector and universities. 

Furthermore, government-funded innovation networks would be created to support innovation in industries such as ICT, green energy, communications technology, medical technology, manufacturing, and service industries.

Under a new agency called the New Zealand Innovation Authority, the party would help to bring government, the private sector, research organisations, and entrepreneurs together. It would help to support startups and business development, as well as innovation and financing support and market access.  

The Authority would have a $230 million budget with $750 million on hands in repayable funds.  

Under the New Zealand Innovation Authority, the party would also extend the current tech incubator programme to support 20 incubators instead of four. This is costed at around $200 million over three years.

“The goal is to support new entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of technological entrepreneurship by assisting in determining the technical and marketing applications of their ideas, developing a business plan, organizing a team, raising capital and preparing to enter the market with commercially viable ventures.

TEA Party 

The TEA Party includes technology as part of its vision for New Zealand as an economic hub and acknowledges that technology sits amongst new and established resources.

Parties that did not respond

Advance New Zealand, Heartland New Zealand, New Conservative, New Zealand First, New Zealand Outdoors Party, and Vision New Zealand did not respond to our requests for information. At the time of publication, these parties do not have visible policies on their respective websites.

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