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Exclusive: What’s missing in Budget 2017? ‘Serious investment’ in the tech sector

Exclusive: What’s missing in Budget 2017? ‘Serious investment’ in the tech sector

A focus on growing areas of interest internationally, like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science, went without mention in Budget 2017, writes Craig Hudson of Xero NZ.

The crowd-pleasing policies revealed in this week’s announcement come at the expense of serious investment in the technology sector, and I think the Government’s missed the mark.

Craig Hudson, Xero NZ

This year’s Budget plays heavily into the hands of “the people”, with promises of tax cuts (and potentially more to come) that puts money back into the hands of the average worker.

But the crowd-pleasing policies revealed in this week’s announcement come at the expense of serious investment in the technology sector, and I think the Government’s missed the mark.

Watch: Are we backing the right horse? Craig Hudson, country manager and Anna Curzon, chief partner officer at Xero NZ, dissect the 2017 Budget.

New Zealand’s technology sector is growing at the rate of double-digits across market sectors and company sizes, and the industry’s exports broke through the $1 billion mark for the first time just last year. And you can bet that out the 215,000 jobs the Government is projecting will crop up over the next four years, a good chunk of those will be in technology.

A focus on growing areas of interest internationally, like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science, went without mention in this year’s Budget. Yet it’s in those exact areas that our technology sector is going to make its mark and remain competitive.

It’s clear now that a chief technology officer is paramount for our country; someone who can create a blueprint for New Zealand’s technology sector that sets it up to be the most competitive it can be for our future generations.

Craig Hudson, Xero NZ

When you look at the money set aside for “Innovative New Zealand” (as it’s called in the Budget), the only share of the $373 million in funding with a direct link to technology and innovation is the $75 million set aside for Callaghan Innovation’s Research & Development grants. The rest goes towards university and Antarctica research, and tertiary subsidies, which you could argue is also incorporating technology innovation.

Compare that to the $222 million assigned for more international films to be made here, or the $102 million tourism infrastructure fund laid out in the Budget, and it’s clear our technology sector has potentially missed out on investment.

As a country, we’re at an inflection point of becoming a high-tech economy. But to do that, we need to put some money back into our industry to set it up to succeed internationally for the years to come.

It’s clear now that a chief technology officer is paramount for our country; someone who can create a blueprint for New Zealand’s technology sector that sets it up to be the most competitive it can be for our future generations.

If we truly want to become a technology hub in the south Pacific, we need a plan and significant investment in our sector to prevent our success stories and startups from falling behind on the international stage.

Craig Hudson is the country manager, NZ, at Xero.

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