Distilling NZ’s ICT Exports

The recently released  New Zealand ICT Supply Survey may not be everyone’s idea of bedtime reading, but  bear with me, because it does give us a useful snapshot of growth patterns within the industry. Up until 2004 Statistics NZ compiled a slightly different set of figures, but the new data set has now been realigned for easier comparison to figures from surveys in other OECD nations. So this years figures (2005/06) are the first by which we can draw any meaningful conclusions under the new regime.

Perhaps the most significant change is that data from the electronics industries is now included. Consequently, nearly a third of all ICT exports fell into the “electronic devices and equipment” category, comprising over $500 million in export returns. So sales figures from high growth hardware exporting companies like Rakon, Endace, Tait and 4RF may have actually inflated the figures somewhat. Whether you consider them to be manufacturers or ICT firms, it doesn’t really matter – it’s all good news.

Notwithstanding this, the value of ICT exports still only equates to about 5% of our total commodity export trade or about the same value as our (declining) fruit and vegetable exports. New Zealand remains near the bottom of the OECD ladder based on ICT export value and (like most nations) we are a net importer of ICT. Interestingly, two comparably sized exporters, Finland and Ireland, are amongst a small number of nations who actually export more ICT than they import. This demonstrates that agility has more to do with being successful at selling technology than does size.

ICT export revenue grew almost 20%, compared to a growth rate of 7.9% across the entire industry, but 90% of New Zealand’s ICT revenue comes from domestic sales consisting largely of telecommunications and sales of computer hardware. An optimist would say that this shows there exists a huge growth opportunity. A pragmatist might suggest we have done a poor job of articulating our value proposition globally.

Why aren’t we exporting more of our good ideas?

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