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New Zealand’s future is happening right now


If we have learned anything from Covid-19 so far, we have learned the importance of having access to the best possible evidence and advice so our leaders can act quickly and with the interests of all New Zealanders in mind.

Hand wringing, favouring the interests of one group at the expense of another, or blindly following another country’s lead — none of these were options for New Zealand’s leadership a few weeks ago in the face of a global pandemic.

They should also remain off the table as we determine the ongoing role technology will play in our nation’s future.

Impact of technology during Covid-19

We only need to look to our current crisis to understand the impact technology has on us all. Almost overnight, New Zealand’s society and economy have gone online, forcing us all to work and interact differently.

This is a challenging time for everyone, but especially for those of us who don’t have the means to engage online.

As the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand, we recognise the seriousness of the situation.

Yet we also understand it offers our country an unprecedented opportunity: our digital future is no longer a conversation about what could be — it is happening right now.

Trust, confidence and participation in the digital world

Conversations about trust in the digital world, how technology can boost business innovation and sustainability and grow the economy, as well as what we need to do to ensure all Kiwis can participate in a digital world, are now not just important, but urgent.

As a country, we need to stay the course. We need to remain committed to decisions led by evidence, informed by robust engagement with all sectors of society and made in the interests of all New Zealanders.

Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand

That is where the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand comes in.

Under my leadership as chair, the Council will carry out research, engage with the public and set out advice for government on the ways technology can benefit society, increase equality and inclusivity and improve wellbeing and community resilience.

It is a broad remit — but we are committed to it. The question is: how?

We are a diverse Council with a range of views and experience. We will not hesitate to bring that diversity of viewpoints to our work and our recommendations to government.

We are independent from government, yet we have direct access to two government Ministers — the Hon. Kris Faafoi, in his role as Minister of Government Digital Services, and the Hon. James Shaw, in his role as Minister of Statistics.

Expect our advice to represent our thinking as it shapes up in response to a combination of research findings and stakeholder input.

Also expect each one of us to offer both a consensus view on issues, where that is genuinely the case, as well as our own individual perspective on issues, where we have our own point of view to convey.

Engagement with New Zealanders

Our goal is to engage widely by talking to and sharing our ideas with New Zealanders.

We want to stimulate genuine debate about the role technology plays in New Zealand’s future and not shy away from entering the debate ourselves.

That said, we will champion evidence-based, sector-tested solutions that seek to benefit all New Zealanders and — most importantly — leave no one behind.

We will advocate for taking the time needed to understand complex and contentious topics of the day, some of which are emerging from the current crisis.

Don’t expect knee-jerk comments on social media (or any platform) from the Council. But do expect the Council — and our individual members — to wade in where we have the expertise and evidence needed to clarify issues and constructively add to the country’s knowledge-base.

We are crystal-clear about our role: our core focus is the medium to long term future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

That was the role envisaged for us by Ministers. It is the role we agreed and committed to and it remains our role during these uncertain times.

A programme of work

With that in mind, we are embarking on a programme of work (agreed to with Ministers prior to lockdown), which we’re updating to account for the impact of Covid-19. We look forward to sharing it shortly.

We are hosting stakeholder engagement workshops to hear first-hand the digital and data issues New Zealanders feel are most important — both right now, as a result of Covid-19, and going forward, as we define our new normal and shape our shared future together.

In the meantime, we have set up several communication channels to keep New Zealanders updated about the Council and our work. You’ll find us here on Medium, on, on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Please know — despite what we are all going through right now — we are not taking a break from our Council role and responsibilities. We will continue to create opportunities to engage with us and our work programme — we are keen to hear from you.

About the author: Mitchell Pham is chair of the Digital Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and director of Augen Software Group and Kiwi Connection Tech Hub. He chairs both the New Zealand Technology Industry Association (NZTech) and the New Zealand Financial Innovation and Technology Association (FinTechNZ).

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NZTech We connect, promote and advance the New Zealand Technology ecosystem to help the tech sector and the economy grow.