Digitalisation: Our multi-billion-dollar opportunity


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It’s clear Aotearoa New Zealand has a big productivity issue. Small business owners and employees in the Bay of Plenty and across the country are working long hours with less to show for it. As a result, we placed 27th out of the 63 countries in the 2022 IMD World Digital Competitiveness Rankings, slipping down from 19th in 2018. There’s no doubt this is a problem which needs to be addressed – but the question is, how do we solve this?

Xero recently worked with the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research to understand how digitalisation could impact our local economy, and the results were astounding.

The research revealed a 20 percent increase in the uptake of cloud-based digital tools could increase New Zealand’s GDP by $7.8 billion through improved productivity.

Digitalisation is instrumental when it comes to improving productivity, equipping businesses with the tools they need to thrive in the modern era.

We need to be following in the footsteps of Denmark and Singapore, both of which are great examples of what strong, committed government investment into digitalisation can do for an economy.

Aotearoa can become a world-leading digital nation, and better yet, businesses in the Bay of Plenty have the power to lead the charge. However, this is easier said than done.

Digitalisation is no mean feat and it can be daunting to commit to overhauling processes without knowing the outcome.

That’s why our Government needs to create policy and encourage digitalisation investment to strengthen our economy by billions.

Looking at the research, there’s a clear roadmap for our Government to consider in the short term, which paves the way for improving the digitalisation of Aotearoa.

This starts with developing a New Zealand Productivity Solutions Grant and foundation plan to set small businesses up for successful digitalisation.

A trusted resource like a Chief Technology Officer-as-a-service is also a crucial step to ensure business owners can engage with digital consultants who provide customised advice and guidance.

This is followed by building an integrated public service system to boost productivity and trust amongst our local businesses.

In the long term, the Government needs to actively invest in digital literacy at all levels of society, meaning everyone from primary schools to nursing homes will be equipped with basic digital skills.

Government should then promote and subsidise gaining digital skills, as part of learning in the workforce and education. We also need to review the level of investment and regulatory frameworks of government research and development of digital technology.

And lastly, improve the competitiveness of the tech sector immigration policy.

Although digitalisation requires both an investment of money and time, the payback period is relatively short. It can take less than two or three years to see a positive return, helping rejuvenate the economy by billions.

The reality is, all around the world economies are rapidly digitalising – if we don’t do the same, businesses in the Bay of Plenty and across Aotearoa New Zealand are at risk of being left behind.

Our Government needs to show more support for our digital progress and introduce policies that support the expansion of New Zealand’s digital economy.

Only then will we be able to unlock the full potential of our economy.

Related: Room to grow for SME wellbeing

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Bridget Snelling
Bridget Snelling
Xero New Zealand Country Manager

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