Vic’s take on budget 2023 – a nod towards digital tech

Peter has written a great summary of the science and technology things in the budget here, definitely worth elaborating on in some areas. But wait there was more, here is my take on the budget 2023.

Equitable Digital Access $15.4M – good and bad

“This initiative provides funding to continue free home internet access for up to 18,000 student households until June 2024. The programme initially started as part of Government’s COVID-19 distance learning programme and now extends access to new students and their whānau who have become eligible since the programme began.” 

You may recall me writing about this in 2022, tripping up and down to the beehive for weeks to ask then Digital Minister Clark and then Education Minister Hipkins to extend this funding – which they did to June this year. So you can imagine how thrilled I am to see an extension to the programme in the budget. 

However – this is another band-aid, it’s not an Education system problem. Internet connections that are both affordable and fit for purpose for the needs of individuals and households is a crisis of our time. The government needs to work alongside community and the telecommunications industry to strike a solution – and that solution will require government budget both to develop and to administer, and very likely for subsidies. 

Game Developers Tax Rebate – a great start

“Budget 2023 includes $160 million total operating to establish a 20 percent rebate for video game
developers, which will help grow and protect New Zealand’s domestic game-development sector.”

The Game Developers Tax rebate is a wonderful news for this vibrant growing segment of the industry. A great starting point for the wider industry too which demonstrates the government acknowledges the export growth potential of the digital technology sector as a whole – so hoping this can grow from here once the return on investment is proven.
Like the wider digital technology industry as a whole the game development industry needs to focus on improving diversity of their workforce, hopefully this rebate system will be diverted into diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts by industry players. 

Enhancing the Digital Technology Skills and Talent Pipeline $26.6M – finally a target

“$26.6 million total operating to support businesses to upskill to address digital skills gaps, and
increase women’s participation in the technology sector from 27 percent to 50 percent by 2030.”

As you can imagine I am thrilled to see the Digital Technologies Industry Transformation plan funding for skills got across the line, the focus on the ability to learn while you earn and increasing the participation of women in this sector are welcome. I’ve worked closely with government on this for the last 12 months, we would have loved to have seen more funding allocated but in the current economic climate this is a great launch. 

Importantly – I am most impressed that the government was prepared to put a target in place – women making up 50% of the workforce by 2030. Achievable with collaborative effort by industry, government and the education system to create the cultural change required, I anticipate this will require further budget moving forward.

National Resilience Plan – some hope

“Priority will be given to reinstating road, rail, and local infrastructure as well as telecommunications and electricity transmission investments.”

Buried in the text there is a mention that funding will be allocated for telecommunications infrastructure – however it says reinstating rather than resilience investment. So some hope but unclear. 

Elevate NZ Capital Fund $40M – how do we know this is working? 

On the Elevate Venture Capital fund top up. It’s great to see further investment in sector growth of course but there hasn’t been much news on the performance of this fund to date so would be interesting to understand the metrics on this fund moving forward.

Pacific Data and Digital Inclusion $1.6M – another great start

“This initiative provides funding to address systemic data equity issues and improve digital inclusion for Pacific peoples. This funding is to build the capability within the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and Pacific communities to establish a work programme to strengthen the design, use, and access to Pacific data.”

It’s great to see further government funding diverted into this space, with my digital equity hat on we can see philanthropic funding at work so it will be great to see alignment and collaboration to ensure momentum can build in a coordinated way to achieve scale. 

Wrapping it all up 

After 2022 where the only real funding for digital technology was in SAAS skills development 2023 is a real step up in focus on our sector. The lobbying of the game developers has worked and good band aids have been applied. As I discussed with Minister Andersen when she called immediately post budget announcement – it’s a great start but there are gaps, long term solutions for the digital divide are completely absent from this budget, allocations are small and will need to be managed well. I am looking forward to progressing all of these agendas. Vic

Source: ITP New Zealand Tech Blog

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