Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce earmarked almost $29 million over the next four years to deepen New Zealand’s technology talent pool.

The money will pay for Information and Communications Technology grad schools in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The last part is important. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all legitimately claim to be technology hubs. Post-earthquake Christchurch’s claim is the most fragile. Government money is a vote of confidence at an important time.

I doubt the planned Christchurch Innovation Precinct will attract start-ups. Technology entrepreneurs have better things to spend money on than renting fancy offices.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Technology companies have much to gain from clustering, it’s good for inter-company relationships. Innovation thrives in tight-knit communities. Putting a graduate school on the same site intensifies this effect.

Wellington’s geography gives the city a natural advantage when it comes to clustering. Auckland, however, is far more fragmented.

Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curran says the plan is ‘woefully inadequate’. In a statement, she says 350 students in four years time is not enough and calls for a more focused technology policy.

While the centres are going to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, it seems they may not automatically be part of the universities or polytechnics in those cities. The government’s press release says:

A tender process will be used to seek innovative proposals from education providers and their industry partners to develop and operate the ICT Graduate Schools.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. Is this the kind of teaching that can be sensibly outsourced? What do you think?