A new public-private sector organisation has been launched with the goal of helping small businesses embrace technology.

Economic and regional development minister Stuart Nash was at The Mind Lab headquarters in Auckland on Tuesday to unveil the Digital Boost Alliance.

The group brings 20 industry and business leaders together to support small businesses to take advantage of the economic recovery, Nash said.

“The government’s vision for the SME sector is to have the most digitally enabled small business sector in the world.

“The organisations who join the alliance make a public commitment to support small businesses, workers or communities with free or discounted goods, services, advice or training in order to improve standards of living and wellbeing.”

Members include Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Xero, Spark, Datacom, Amazon Web Services, and five banks. The organisations will be working to offer advice and services to small businesses who might be hesitant to adopt new technologies, working with the government to push the initiatives.

“Our experience is that many people have a very real fear of the online world, but with the right support and a safe place to test and learn, they can build their confidence and skills very quickly,” said Kiwibank head of sustainability Julia Jackson.

The new partnerships bring in more private sector support following the government’s $44 million pledge as part of the budget. This allocation is for the existing Digital Boost initiative introduced with last year’s budget that promises business training courses for 30,000 small businesses and advisory services for 15,000.

Mind Lab founder Frances Valintine said half of NZ businesses don’t have a website. 

Nash said that NZ businesses need to embrace digitalisation by using cloud services.

“There is no going back from the digital revolution that has occurred across the globe due to covid-19. Millions of companies and business owners have adopted digital tools and technologies to meet new expectations of customers and suppliers, and drive productivity."

Xero and NZIER estimate a 20% rise in the use of cloud services by businesses in NZ could result in a gross domestic product increase between $3.5 billion and $6.2 billion.

Google NZ country director Caroline Rainsford said Google-led research estimated there was an "enormous opportunity" if digital transformation is embraced.

“There is $46.6b worth of economic value to be gained by 2030 if we do this right.”

She highlighted the need to support technology adoption in key industries, to support digital export opportunities, and to upskill the current workforce while creating new talent for the future of the sector.

“The continued digitalisation of NZ businesses will help secure the economic recovery in the face of ongoing uncertainty and volatility as covid-19 evolves around the world. The global pandemic is still our biggest threat but we are well placed to deal with its challenges through initiatives like increased digitalisation,” Nash said.