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Spark eyes $26b boost from advanced tech plan

Telecommunications company Spark is harnessing the power of AI and advanced digital technology to move New Zealand forward.

In a study by Spark and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER)– Accelerating Aotearoa businesses one technology generation forward – the country is looking towards advancing its technological capabilities over the next decade.

The report revealed that a 20 percent uplift in the use of advanced digital technologies like AI can increase industry output by up to $26 billion and an increased GDP of 2.08 percent over the next decade.

“New Zealanders generate significantly less output than many other small, advanced economies, despite working longer and harder comparatively as a nation,” says Spark CEO, Jolie Hodson.

“Our productivity is a persistent challenge that has seen little change over many decades, but what is changing is the urgent need to address it.”

As the country grows older, more populous and more diverse, New Zealand is facing more frequent events whether it be weather-related, cost-related and more. With technology continuing to develop rapidly, these technologies have reached a stage where they can solve challenges we as a nation are facing.

NZIER CEO, Jason Shoebridge says that as the country grows, our productivity output is even more vital and the best answer to this is digital transformation.

“There are many business and policy decisions that need to be made to ensure that we benefit from the opportunities that digital transformation provides. We have identified in our analysis the significant benefits in adopting digital technology and applications,” he says.

At a media launch at the Spark headquarters in Auckland in late February, Spark revealed the capabilities of these advanced digital technologies that they are supporting in boosting productivity for vital industries including healthcare, trades, water, and more.

Spark’s support of New Zealand making use of advanced digital technologies is broken up into initiatives to help Kiwi businesses moving forward.

The first initiative is measuring progress, which Spark believes that at a national level can unlock and target investment in productivity improvements.

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In other parts of the world, including the EU, New Zealand lacks a “robust or sustained way” of measuring digital adoption and progress, which is a barrier to improvement in this area.

Spark and NZIER want to improve this through their development of a spectrum of digital maturity that will help organisations identify the potential of technology that will accelerate transformation and drive productivity.

The second initiative is harnessing artificial intelligence which Spark and NZIER believe enables productivity gains beyond labour productivity alone.

Their report found 44 percent of New Zealand business leaders believe they lack enough information about generative AI, making this the biggest knowledge gap.

By supporting a nationwide AI strategy, Spark believes this would support growth and innovation and help ensure we support our local industry to thrive – so that New Zealand remains a creator of the tech, not only a consumer or net importer of it.

Spark is also launching a dedicated AI for Business Mini MBA programme to kickstart the learning journey for businesses.

The final initiative is research and development in an innovation ecosystem.

Over the past 20 years, New Zealand’s research and development (R&D) spend has been consistently below the OECD average, with business expenditure on R&D particularly low, meaning our ability to transform businesses with technology is under-leveraged.

To combat this, Spark is committing $15 million to an Innovation Fund for businesses and government customers to boost the adoption of advanced digital technologies and support innovation.

With these three initiatives, Spark hopes to see Kiwi businesses embrace technology to “make the most of tomorrow”.

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