Curran on productivity

A mixture of good and bad in Clare Curran’s blog on :

We have a productivity taskforce set up by the National Government and led by the ignominious Don Brash. It’s likely to come up with an argument for economic growth which is about selling our state assets and keeping wages down, or cutting jobs to create more profits. Because that’s what the conservative side of politics believes productivity to be. Gordon Campbell’s piece on this a couple of months ago is worth reading.

Labour, on the other hand, is an enabler. We want economic growth. We don’t want it at the cost of creating greater gaps in our society between those on no income and those who do have one.

This is just puerile. National bad. Labour good.  She declares that the conservative side believe productivity is about cutting wages and jobs. Slogans are not substitute for analysis.  Fortunately we get this later on:

1. Open government. In particular open software.

The NZ Government currently spends around $2 billion a year on IT, in software, hardware and all the services that go with it.  We have lots of government websites, but we don’t have an open source policy and we don’t practice open government. We have attempted to harmonise govt IT and networking through the previous Labour Govt’s digital strategy. Much of that appears to have been ditched. There’s an awful lot more work to do in this area.

The US government, under Obama, has made a commitment to cut its total IT spend of $76 billion by between 50% and 80% by driving its systems into open source and cloud computing.

Could we save $1 billion?

I think there is considerable potential in this area, and delighted to see Labour take an interest in it.

2. Working from home. Telework

Ten year’s ago, a study funded by the Auckland Regional Council found that spending $3 million on an awareness raising programme about the benefits of telework targeting employers, could take 10% of Auckland’s traffic off the roads. There’s research overseas demonstrating that you can save up to 15% in workplace productivity and lower overheads through flexible arrangements with your employees working from home. And then there’s the greenhouse gas savings, and the boost to local communities. Let alone the social capital through having more parents at home, more often.

Yep – very much the way of the future. I will point out this is one of the reasons why National pledged $1.5 billion for to the home in 2008, as compared to Labour’s $340 million.  I think the rollout will see a very significant increase in people working at least some of the time from home, and some smaller firms doing away with offices all together. In fact some have already started.

3. Saving time. Improving our basic computer skills

Consider this. The UK National Health Service employs 1.2 million people. I’m told they recently put 100,000 staff through a programme to upgrade their basic computer skills, called the International Computer Driver’s Licence (ICDL). This is a reputable programme, developed through the European Union.

An analysis of its effectiveness showed they’d saved 38 mins/day for each employee. Or four weeks per person per year. Crikey! And that was because each staff member knew how to work better with the software they used every day at work and how to solve their own problems.

Not a bad idea also.  We agree on the details, if not on the rhetoric!

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