It was supposed to be a celebration of technology, but for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the central message was “we are still dealing with people”. Addressing the Singapore FinTech Festival 2020, she said that “putting people and the planet first” made good sense for governments, economies and businesses even as the world increasingly moves online. 

“Our digital future must prioritise the wellbeing of all people and be truly inclusive. It will be important to ensure that every single person and business has what they need to participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital economy,” says Ardern, the youngest New Zealand Prime Minister in a century and a half. This includes, she says, women, rural communities, low socio-economic groups and ethnic minorities. 

Ardern also expressed optimism about the transformative impact of digital technology on small and medium enterprises (SMEs). “Digital technologies increase efficiency by reducing transaction costs,” she says, highlighting also the hope that trade would become “truly seamless” with the introduction of technologies like electronic invoicing and payment systems. International trade makes up around 60% of New Zealand’s economic activity. 

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