Spatial Information in the New Zealand Economy - Realising Productivity Gains is a report commissioned by Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Economic Development.

It provides robust economic analysis that quantifies the contribution spatial information makes to the New Zealand economy, as well as opportunities for this contribution to grow. The report concludes that use and re-use of spatial information is estimated to have added $1.2 billion in productivity related benefits to the New Zealand economy in 2008.

Press release 2009

Spatial information adds hundreds of millions to NZ economy

Innovative use of spatial information pumped more than $1 billion into the New Zealand economy in 2008 - and better access to data could see that figure soar, according to a report into the value of spatial information.

Spatial information is data that is linked to a geographic location. It has thousands of applications, making it possible to do things like use maps on mobile phones or send emergency services to the right addresses.

The report outlines that use of spatial information added at least $1.2 billion to the economy last year through productivity gains, largely as a result of the increasing adoption of modern spatial information technologies since 1995.

Wider and better use of spatial information could lead to even greater productivity, adding another $500 million to the economy.

"We've always believed that spatial information contributes significantly to the economy, now we have credible data to back that up," Maurice Williamson said. "One of the main challenges is to free up access to data, so that greater productivity gains are realised."

Providing better access to data will encourage innovation, as users find new ways of translating spatial information to solve problems and develop new products, Mr Williamson said.

"Industry and the government sector must work together to realise the benefits of more open access and standardised data, so that the economy can grow further."

The report recommends New Zealand develops a national spatial data infrastructure, a step that appeals to the Government, Mr Williamson said.

"Government has already signalled that spatial data infrastructure is a priority area. For the good of the economy, now is the right time to knock away the remaining barriers to more widespread adoption of spatial information."

executive summary

In 2008, the use and re-use of spatial information is estimated to have added $1.2 billion in productivity-related benefits to the New Zealand economy. This value is the result of increasing adoption of modern spatial information technologies over the period 1995-2008, and is equivalent to slightly more than 0.6 per cent of GDP or GNP in 2008.

Other (non-productivity) benefits linked to the increasing use of spatial information are probably worth a multiple of this. Uncertainties around the likelihoods of future events and valuation methodologies limit the ability to express such benefits in dollar terms; however, non-productivity benefits are nevertheless important to policy and decision making.

Examples of the use of modern spatial information technology can be found in all sectors of New Zealand’s economy. There is tremendous potential for further benefits to be realised, but the timing and likely degree of future impact is difficult to assess because the technology and applications continue to evolve rapidly, and because policies may also shift.

A range of barriers to the adoption of spatial information have constrained uptake and limited the ability to reap additional benefits in New Zealand. Past and current barriers notably include problems in accessing data, inconsistency in data standards, and a general lack of skills and knowledge relating to modern spatial information technology.

Had key barriers been removed it is estimated that New Zealand could have benefited from an additional $481 million in productivity-related benefits in 2008, generating at least $100 million in government revenue. This ‘cost’ of the presence of barriers will rise with each year that passes, as the nation’s capacity to adopt is increasing continually and pent-up demand is growing.

A government intervention representing the best ‘value-for-money’ for New Zealand in the short term, which can be implemented at relatively low cost and which has the potential to generate benefits quickly is the release of basic spatial data held by government (i.e., enabling access at marginal cost, which would be zero in instances where it is made available over the Internet).

This would be a logical first step to develop New Zealand’s spatial data infrastructure (SDI). A broader intervention securing an effective SDI would lead to the highest benefits overall to New Zealand. This report estimates the benefit-to-cost (BCR) ratio of such an intervention to be at least 5:1 where it is costed at $100 million and only one year of benefits is counted.

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