The role of the state in technological leadership – a New Zealand perspective

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Cat Mules

As we enter what the World Economic Forum has termed the Fourth Economic Revolution, New Zealand’s future prosperity is highly dependent on its ability to adopt technology and engage with technological solutions. Government doesn’t tend to be as agile as business, but future government is being pressured to keep up.

In a knowledge-based economy, digitisation trends that apply to the private sector, now also apply to the state sector.  In fact, international research suggests that relationships with government are more likely to affect companies’ economic value than any other stakeholder. This is particularly important at this time of profound innovation and disruption.

Although governments don’t tend to be as agile as business in responding to technological challenges and opportunities, successive New Zealand governments have understood the need to maximise opportunities to achieve a productive and sustainable economy.

As innovation in how we produce and market goods and services defines the new global economy, the New Zealand government has clearly signalled its intention to develop a digital strategy to guide its public service.

Each political party’s position on technological innovation varies, yet the future digital economy is a common drawcard. Umbrellar Connect’s Peter Griffin explains, common themes include improved support for public sector employees, improved capital raising opportunities for businesses’ R&D efforts, investment in a more highly-skilled workforce, and more of a focus on how data use can inform and improve decision making are consistent across the political spectrum.

AI is major technological growth area, traditionally associated with the private sector but playing a bigger role in government. With more personalised, engaging and responsive service possible, governments, like business, are striving to be provide intuitive, integrated and seamless outcomes for citizens.

Market understanding and equitable outcomes

The New Zealand government is particularly working towards integrated data insights and agencies to streamline and improve social and economic outcomes, and connect the regional and rural areas. Newer government advisory initiatives like the Health and Disability System Review and the Digital Council prioritise evening  technological outcomes between public sector and communities, and social inclusion, using technology as a tool to empower business and prioritising privacy and trust as central.

Government is playing an increasing role in the globalisation of R&D as corporate innovation takes on an increasingly international focus. Economic development agencies help foster collaboration across research and industry. Technological solutions could also overcome some of the challenges of New Zealand’s geographic isolation from the rest of the world, with ‘weightless exports’ enabled by digital technology in the agritech sector, for example.

Small business focus

There is widespread recognition that it is in New Zealand Governments best interests for small businesses to succeed given our high proportion of SMEs. New Zealand’s digital identification for businesses, begun in 2018, has enabled businesses to prepopulate business names, contact details and some invoicing transactions automatically, saving businesses some US$60 million annually. Collaborating to solve common problems is essential to create productive clusters and foster innovative thinking. Be it tax credits or grants, most small businesses will be thinking about what the next government is doing to foster more innovation.

Tax reform is an important area for technological innovation. PWC says taxation strategies must be reconsidered in order to expand the Government’s revenue base and remove bias in how they invest. As the issue goes before the debating chamber, businesses will be thinking about how much room they’ll have to innovate and what the costs will be in doing so.

The globalisation of technological innovation will define the new economy.  Organisations will want to balance their responsiveness strategy with their experimentation in using newer technology.


No government has all the answers, or limitless resources. Governments face significant challenges in implementing enlightened technological strategies. A recent Productivity New Zealand research (2019) showed businesses find great value in learning from each other locally and internatinoally, whether it is adapting proven practices or producing similar products. Partnerships between government and the private sector will also be essential to heighten New Zealand’s digital capability and build a knowledge-based economy, with the big one being Microsoft’s upcoming datacentre.

The call from business for high quality technological oversight from government has been accelerated by the rapid economic changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. As PWC’s Rebuild New Zealand report spells out, as a nation we’ve moved from the challenge of saving lives to saving livelihoods. The New Zealand government has already spending over $$50 billion on COVID-19 support, maybe the key question is, how much more can they afford?

What are your business needs?

Technological consequences for New Zealand business are specific and situational. Maybe you have urgent cashflow needs, maybe you need more certainty about your financial future, or maybe you need more opportunities to collaborate, and draw on expertise or investors. Join us in the Umbrellar Connect cloud community as we discuss these and other topics nearing the New Zealand election.

For further commentary on New Zealand government engagement with technology, see these articles from Umbrellar Connect:

Image source: Office of the Clerk/Parliamentary Service. Licensed by the Clerk of the House of Representatives and/or the Parliamentary Corporation on behalf of Parliamentary Service for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. Full licence available at






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Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

Data, AI, BI & ML

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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the terms of computer science. Artificial Intelligence : The word Artificial Intelligence comprises of two words “Artificial” and “Intelligence”. Artificial refers to something which is made by human or non natural thing and Intelligence means ability to understand or think. There is a misconception that Artificial Intelligence is a system, but it is not a system. AI is implemented in the system. There can be so many definition of AI, one definition can be “It is the study of how to train the computers so that computers can do things which at present human can do better.” Therefore it is an intelligence where we want to add all the capabilities to machine that human contain. Machine Learning : Machine Learning is the learning in which machine can learn by its own without being explicitly programmed. It is an application of AI that provide system the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience. Here we can generate a program by integrating input and output of that program. One of the simple definition of the Machine Learning is “Machine Learning is said to learn from experience E w.r.t some class of task T and a performance measure P if learners performance at the task in the class as measured by P improves with experiences.”

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