The Greens and the Internet Party

Our third post profiling party election policies deals with the Green Party and the Internet Party.

The Greens have released a fairly comprehensive ICT policy (which can be read in its entirety here: (warning, PDF). Obviously the Green Party takes the ICT sector very seriously and they’ve done some good groundwork in preparing this, including crowd sourcing thoughts about their policies.

The Greens have a solid focus on education, wanting to train more ICT experts by working alongside industry to support internship programmes and providing more funding for post-grad studies that support the ICT sector. Where the Greens differ from other parties who are proposing similar ideas is the amount contributed to this. These are both good ideas but we think it would also be advantageous if some focus was put on retaining people post-graduation. Skills retention is an important part of any burgeoning industry. It’s not enough to train people; you have to give them the incentives to stay.

We applaud the Greens’ vision shown by its proposed game development fund. It is not well known that the gaming industry makes more money worldwide than movies or television. We are also comfortable with the Greens’ policy of supporting New Zealand IT companies, and obviously we encourage more widespread use of Open Source software and services.

Where the Greens say they believe that a Government Chief Technology Officer would solve many issues regarding co-ordination of ICT policy and opportunity, we think this is but one option. We favour a broader reallocation of Ministerial portfolios around ICT, broadcasting, associate education and associate economic development as signalled in our election issues document. 

The Greens also talk about the building of a second trans-Pacific cable to compete with Southern Cross. We support this idea in principle as it future-proofs New Zealand’s connectivity, however it won’t necessarily bring down prices or provide more bandwidth as we are sometimes led to believe. It is excellent to see political parties talking about this sort of issue.

Finally, the Internet Party. In policy terms, this party shares some common issues with InternetNZ – indeed, many of the policy themes that they propose are similar to our own document, Election ’14 and the Internet, which can be seen here:

Some standout points from this are:

A bold vision of rolling out fibre to 97.8% of the population. This would be well and truly game changing for New Zealand – it’d be probably the most broadly based fibre rollout in the world - but   the critical question is that of cost. The UFB is delivering coverage to 75% of the NZ population for $1.5 billion of public funds and a total investment of around $3.5bn, and this is to the densest parts of the population too. We can’t see how another 22.8% of fibre rollout in less dense areas can be delivered for the $200 million that the Internet Party estimates – but we are keen to know more. 

Halving the cost of Internet services to New Zealanders is another notable commitment. Again, this would be incredible, but we question exactly how this can be done too. For example, we know that Southern Cross Cable prices aren’t a big component of Internet prices in New Zealand, and it simply isn’t possible for competition in this market (for international connectivity) will lead to pricing advantages of the scale that the Internet Party is proposing. That said, we do agree about continuing to enhance competition in New Zealand telecommunications. Every dollar counts on retail broadband prices and more competition will help – but it simply won’t add up to a halving. 

A clear position on surveillance and the role of the GCSB won’t come as a surprise. InternetNZ agrees that there are valid questions to be asked about whether and how the Internet is exploited by governments to conduct surveillance on New Zealanders. Privacy is vitally important in the digital age, as it will drive trust in the use of Internet services. The role of New Zealand’s government in this debate is a hot topic in this campaign – our views were set out when 2013 legislative changes were being made, and can be found here.

Finally, Copyright Law does indeed need reviewing. We don’t think that this can be tied solely to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and we are pleased to see that the Internet Party is also thinking about what changes could be made to Copyright in New Zealand so as to improve its relevance and workability in the age of ubiquitous Internet.

The Internet Party is increasing the profile of Internet issues in New Zealand, and the more public focus and attention there is on how the Internet can contribute to building better lives for all of us, the better. We do have some questions about the workability of some of their specifics, but the intentions behind what we’ve highlighted above are for the good.