What are the politicians planning in ICT?

Computerworld sums up the main policies of National and Labour in this week’s issue.

Broadband is obviously the dominant one with National’s $1.5 billion plan to fund a national fibre optic network in conjunction with the private sector the centre-piece of its ICT policy. Labour has its own plan which involves contestable funding for broadband schemes that do not specify which technology should be used and is more regionalised in its approach.

This Infotech article suggests the electricity lines company may be best positioned to partner with the Government to realise National’s fibre plan – rather than existing telcos.

The other ICT issues seem to be falling into fairly neat boxes this time around – education is a big one, with a clear need to address the skills shortage and the waning interest in science and ICT at primary level.

Then there’s the R&D tax issue. National plans to scrap the 15 per cent R&D tax credit that was introduced on April 1. The Waikato Times editorial today slammed that plan and you can see why.As the editorial explains:

“25 per cent of the research undertaken in New Zealand takes place within organisations in Hamilton, employing around 1000 research scientists (one of the highest ratios of scientists per capita of any city in the world).”

Much of the research undertaken in the Waikato will also take advantage of the Fast Forward fund set up by the Government to boost funding of primary sector R&D programmes. National will axe that too, but in favour of different forms of funding, outlined here.

As the Waikato Times also points out, cutting the R&D credit also goes against what the rest of the world is doing:

“The share of gross domestic expenditure on R&D in this country has changed only slightly over the past decade. At 1.16 per cent of GDP (about half the OECD average of 2.26 per cent), New Zealand is in the bottom third of countries.”