The information and communications technology (ICT) sector contributed $6.2 billion (5.1%) to gross domestic product in 2007. There were around 8,800 companies – 8.5% had annual revenues of more than a million dollars.
ICT is an important growth industry, and also a vital ‘enabling technology’ for other industries. In a sparsely-populated country with many geographical barriers to communication, ICT offers ways for people to connect. ICT also helps people to connect with other countries and limits New Zealand’s isolation from markets.
The website for Barack Obama’s 2008 US presidential campaign used software from a small Wellington company. Silverstripe was founded in 2000 by Sigurd Magnusson, Sam Minee and Tim Copeland. Wellington City Council’s small business enterprise centre helped them develop a content management system, and support from Google meant it could be used in various languages. When the US Democratic Party bought the Silverstripe system for their Obama campaign website, it opened doors to other work. Silverstripe now has offices in Australia and London.
The growth of the ICT industry depends on improved broadband access. In 2006 nearly 65% of New Zealand households had access to the internet, but only a third had a broadband connection – the country ranked 13th out of 30 OECD countries for its rate of broadband subscribers.
In 2008 the government introduced a strategy to improve access. Broadband is especially important outside the main cities. Farms as well as factories need broadband technology to track markets and improve management.
ICT capital of New Zealand
Christchurch is the centre of the ICT industry in New Zealand. More than 200 software companies are based in the Canterbury region, responsible for 50% of New Zealand’s software development. About one in every 300 people in Christchurch writes software for a living.
Christchurch is also New Zealand’s largest manufacturing centre for ICT exports. Tait Electronics, set up in Christchurch in 1969, is a major international supplier of digital mobile radio systems. Around 95% of its products are exported to more than 130 countries. In 2008 the company employed 800 people worldwide.