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Digital literacy: meeting our biggest need

01 Oct 09

Continuing our series Industry Voice, Kevin Ackhurst, the Country Manager of Microsoft New Zealand and a member of the Board of NZICT Group, outlines how NZICT plans to lift the country’s ICT skills level

We can make New Zealand the most digitally literate country in the world, with massive benefits from improved  productivity and new hi-tech businesses. It is an audacious goal, but with a public-private commitment to it, we at NZICT believe it is possible.

Education and skills were one of the key areas of focus when we established NZICT. The ICT industry in New  Zealand has historically had a shortage of skilled workers. This has been due to the education and training system not  being able to produce enough qualified people, and the lure of jobs overseas. Parents also don’t see ICT as an  attractive industry for their children for various reasons, including perceptions that it is risky as a result of the dot com  boom-and-bust earlier this decade.

As a result New Zealand has had to rely on a flow of immigrants, attracted by our lifestyle, to fill this gap. While this  has helped, it has meant that New Zealand has fundamentally not fulfilled its potential.

Because New Zealanders in many cases lack 21st century skills (despite being innovative and hard-working by world  standards), we believe this has constrained economic and productivity growth.  So ICT skills and education are not just  ICT industry challenges; they are a fundamental part of improving the country’s competitiveness. Hence the strong  focus on digital literacy for NZICT Group.

So how are we going? I chair NZICT’s education and skills sub-committee and we have been delighted with progress  to date, and the level of commitment from our members.

We have forged a strong partnership with the Ministries of Education and Economic Development, and both agencies  are materially committed to making major changes to increase ICT skills. We have also developed relationships with  other important stakeholders including the Foundation for Research, Science Technology, Industrial Research Limited,  New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Internet NZ, universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, training organisations, NZ Computer Society, nongovernmental organisations like the Computer Clubhouse and the 2020 Trust, and most importantly teachers.

New Zealand is fortunate to have a group of committed educationalists who are working towards making some  dramatic changes, and NZICT is wholeheartedly committed to supporting their initiatives. We are also driving some  initiatives of our own, tapping into the global experience and perspective that many of our members have.

So what can you expect?

  • A new digital technologies curriculum in secondary schools in 2011 as part of NCEA, elevating ICT to a fully fl edged  attainment subject.

  • Promotion of ICT as a career option to students and parents through programs like Actv8, FutureinTech, and others to be announced.

  • More digital devices available to students at all levels of the education system, through innovative schemes in  conjunction with partners like the Computer Clubhouses and Computers in Homes, and the corporate ICT user sector.

  • Recognition of existing ICT professionals through programs like the NZCS IT Certified Professional, and potential  certification of ICT companies through NZICT.

  • An economy-wide focus on creating an ICT skills training culture, from baseline qualifications like the International  Computer Driving License to specific software and applications training.

What can you do? You can get involved with many of the projects mentioned above by engaging with NZICT and  helping New Zealand to fulfil its digital potential.

For further information, see or
call Brett O’Riley on 021 027 09021

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