Under this National led Government the only things that have really grown are Government debt, unemployment, pollution and the value of our dollar. Their major initiatives to turn the economy around have been to mine coal, encourage oil exploration, sell state assets and to build motorways. The price of coal has plummet, Petrobras has pulled out of further oil exploration, the asset sales have met wide opposition and the motorways are failing cost benefit analysis.
The Green Party's Memorandum of Understanding with the Government meant the adoption of the Green's home insulation scheme which has been one of the the most successful initiatives of the past four years. Over 230,000 homes have been insulated, around 2,000 jobs have been created and the savings in energy and health costs have been considerable. While National tries to promote the view that the Greens are against progress and creating real jobs, reality tells a different story.
The Green Party has just released an ICT discussion paper, with proposals that could potentially rescue our stagnating economy if they were fully realised. Last year the ICT industry contributed around 6.2% of our GDP, employed 43,000 people and paying hourly wages 28% higher than the national average. The sector is seven times bigger than mining and employs five times as many people. Over the past 10 years or so the ICT exports have increased around 120% and earn about $20 billion.
New Zealand already has some amazing ICT success stories like Sam Morgan's Trade Me and more recently Guy Horrocks. New Zealanders have competed with the best in the digital world and have come out winners. While we have had success, we do have significant barriers to even greater success and this Government is creating many of them through inaction and ignorance:
- We only have one fibre optic connecting us with the rest of the world. This leaves us very vulnerable if that connection is lost and the lack of competition means that there is a monopoly of provision and little incentive to provide competitive pricing.
- The Government actively looks overseas for software providers, ignoring our local ICT industry.
- While we do produce some talented people with great ICT skills, many leave New Zealand for greater opportunities overseas.
- As a primary teacher I applauded the provision of ultra fast broadband to all schools but cost of accessing it is prohibitive to many and the tools to exploit it are not equitably available across our schools.
- It also appalls me that our curriculum, in the primary sector especially, has been effectively narrowed to literacy and numeracy with the introduction of National Standards and the sacking of our Science and Technology advisors. Surely it is science and technology that will provide the foundation to a strong ICT industry?
- The knowledge base for ICT in this Government is also rather limited and this was especially evident during the debate on the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing Amendment Bill. The speech from Gareth Hughes was widely praised by the ICT Industry, while the one from National MP Katrina Shanks got lots of attention for other reasons.
The Greens proposals of investing in another cable, introducing smarter government procurement, education, clustering and patent reform will be a real shot in the arm for the ICT sector. Not only will these boost our economy but will do so in a way that doesn't pollute our rivers or leave great holes in the ground.