NEW Zealand’s government spends $2 billion each year on IT. But until now, the complex tender process has made it difficult for small and medium-sized companies to win a slice of that business.
Communications and IT minister David Cunliffe will reveal the government’s digital strategy for creating a knowledge society this month.
Cunliffe says as part of this, the procurement process will be improved with tenders available to both small and large businesses.
“There is a lack of education in the provider community on the tendering process.”
He believes there are endless opportunities for e-health, e-education and e-science and says the government will use IT to operate as a much more effective organisation.
With so much of New Zealand business falling into the SME (small and medium enterprise) sector, Cunliffe believes the key to success is through providing simple products and mentoring services.
“Small firms say it’s too difficult to bring technology into an established business and that’s why the corner panel beater or dairy is still using an old computer.”
Cunliffe says there is a huge discrepancy between what the knowledge within the technology sector is and what the general public know about technology.
He is calling for help from the private sector in bridging the digi-tal divide.
“There is a huge potential for New Zealand to be a world leader in technology, but at the moment the country is in danger of getting stuck at the email stage. We need to work together to make sure IT happens,” he says.
Cunliffe believes IT products should be easy and simple to use.
“Most people don’t know the full capabilities of products like Microsoft Windows and Office whereas things like the iPod are very easy to use.”
He believes security should be a priority and says that if two-factor authentication is good enough for some banks then it should be good enough for all banks.
The Telecommunications Act is under review, with announcements to be made later in the year and a bill to deal with spam is ready to go before parliament.
Cunliffe believes people will be turned off email because of spam.
“Broadband increases the opportunity for good and bad. It increases productivity but also increases the chances of virus, phishing and spam attacks.”
Included in the announcement will be specific initiatives to inspire productivity and growth within the sector and what Cunliffe describes as a significant amount of money.
The industry needs to come to the party by providing an interface to people, he says.
“Go out there, find people and consider every New Zealander as your client. Those who own the customers will win in business.”
The government will continue to fund technology education to the tune of $50m annually and will make security a priority with the promise of more online cyber cops.
On the private research front, New Zealand ranks 29 out of 30 in the OECD.
Cunliffe says the private sector should be investing in staff and research in order for the country to become a true knowledge society.