With all the woes of the current economic downturn, many governments are spending vast sums of money to stimulate their economies by getting people to start buying again.
Don’t get me wrong; this is important, but aren’t there other things that we can be doing alongside these stimulus packages to improve the lives of New Zealanders?
We know from research (OECD, etc.) that a key driver in raising the real income of citizens within a country is by increasing what economists call ‘aggregate productivity growth’, ie: creating, marketing and supporting new products and services for customers in more effi cient ways, or in completely new ways. In other words: innovation.
Of course, while improvements can be made in the areas of product market competition and business taxation and infrastructure, one area which has been shown to increase aggregate productivity in an economy is the existence of both an ICT-producing sector and the widespread use of ICT by other industries. Therefore, to stimulate economic growth through ICT we need to develop, in a holistic fashion, the various components of our national technology innovation ‘ecosystem’, including end user demand, infrastructure readiness, innovation policies, educational systems and a skilled workforce.
We can achieve some of this through public policy and government spending. We can also achieve this through creating and growing collections of people who are focused on the application of technologies in the various sectors of the New Zealand economy; for example: IT use in healthcare, wireless use in the agriculture industry, 3D applications for engineering and artificial intelligence at the movies. It’s about building communities of interest and innovation.
Perhaps this is why we have upwards of 150 different paidmembership organisations that represent the different aspects of the New Zealand ICT sector. Each offers its members a value proposition in terms of a common passion, focus, understanding and motivation. So, from one end of the continuum, these fragmented communities have a positive effect on the economy as they form a web of connected communities that drive innovation. However, from a potential customer perspective this plethora of fragmented communities can be confusing and downright impossible to fi nd and communicate with!
And this is where the challenge lies: how do we make it easy for the world to connect to the New Zealand technology industry, while encouraging the growth of the various, and sometimes very disparate, communities of ICT users and producers that innovate across the New Zealand economy? We need these communities of interest and webs of innovation to drive economic growth through ICT. We also need structures and pipelines of communication that potential customers in offshore markets and sources of new technologies can engage with to provide a basis for innovation.
Initiatives such as Intellect UK in Europe, NASSCOM in India and SITF in Singapore, to name a few, have made tremendous strides in achieving this balance between community building and ‘unifi ed communications’ to markets and government to create ultra-robust networks1.These networks are the competitors of the future for New Zealand, not our fellow ICT trade associations or communities of interest that we perceive as encroaching on ‘our space’.
So here’s the call to action for economic growth and prosperity: let’s focus on stimulating the New Zealand economy by working together to get our ‘communities of innovation’ to the global market via a unifi ed branding and communications strategy; otherwise we’ll look like a bunch of seagulls fi ghting over an empty chip packet on a deserted beach!
For more on ultra-robust networks and the impact of communities of interest, see Six Degrees: The Science of the Connected Age by Duncan J. Watts (2003)
Malcolm Fraser has over 30 years’ experience in hightechnology companies. He is a co-founder of Agitavi International, which for the last seven years has provided expertise in local software economy research, and software business management training for technology executives, in over 30 countries across Europe, Asia Pacifi c and the Middle East.
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