NZICT Near Future Digital Priorities Paper

December 8, 2009 – 11:49 am

NZICT is an industry lobby group, representing the NZ ICT industry (software, hardware, services, networks, education, and training). They’ve just released a “Near Future Digital Priorities” paper. Here are my first thoughts.

  1. First, I have to applaud the industry getting together to try and figure out how it can help the rest of NZ grow. The most exciting conversation at the short-lived Digital Development Council was when agriculture and manufacturing and other industries had an honest conversation with representatives of the ICT industry without being sidetracked into the failures or benefits of particular products or vendors.
  2. Second, I applaud the idea that ICT can contribute to the lift in national economic performance that the government wants. Lately I’ve been thinking that there are three critical parts to NZ’s industries doing better: (1) make better use of ICT, (2) develop a global focus so our businesses don’t plateau once they get comfortable in the domestic market, (3) lift the skills of the people in leadership and management so that they can deliver on (1) and (2) without shitting on their feet as has happened all too often in the past. The report addresses (1) but I’d say that all three must be tackled together.
  3. I don’t like the high-level generalities of the NZICT report. It’s their first report and in many ways is a stake in the ground to say “we’re here, we’re doing good things, we’re on the right side”. That would explain the vague parroting of political objectives (“step-change” is the new “sustainability”). The report is cannily aligned with political objectives (broadband, more efficient public sector, education, R&D) but many of the recommendations are little more than “we will work with you on what you’re already doing in these areas”. Government needs to be shown specific opportunities (e.g., “look to open source database alternatives in these situations”), and there are precious few specifics here.
  4. And where there are specifics, they’re not great. For example:

    There  has  been  a  move  to  a  more  centralised  approach  to  Government  ICT strategy  managed  by  the Government Technology Services  group  within  the Department  of  Internal  Affairs. NZICT supports this centralised planning approach. It should clarify the strategic objectives of Government ICT spend, and enable consequent research and development opportunities for the industry to take. 

    NZICT proposes that the Government make an “Annual Statement of ICT Priorities”. This will enable transparency, certainty and direction of public sector ICT spending for all stakeholders involved. It will also encourage private sector investment, including research and development. This will stimulate ICT based innovation within the economy.

    Some problems with this: (1) annual is not a timeframe for strategic thought, it’s tactical; (2) annual is not a R&D timeframe, it’s a sales cycle; (3) it’s unclear that an annually-changing long-term strategy would provide any more certainty to investment than exists now; (4) the problem that this would solve isn’t clearly defined. This last failing is near-universal. Very few of the paper’s many recommendations come with a problem statement, and solutions to unknown or poorly-specified problems often turn out to be timebombs, turkeys, or turds.

  5. I’m also aware that NZICT is an industry lobby group and as such its offers and advice should be taken with a grain of salt. New Zealand has precious few independent economic voices (New Zealand Institute has served admirably in the past), and NZICT is not one of them. “NZICT  will  establish  a  working  group  with  the Government Technology Services group of the Department of Internal Affairs to develop a programme for improving public sector ICT efficiency, including operational and process cost reduction to an agreed plan and targets” could be read by a cynic as “NZICT members will have privileged access to centralised government IT planners and buyers, bypassing or rendering moot a procurement process that attempts to provide a level playing field”.

So, like most things, it’s a mixed bag. I’d give them 6/10 for speaking with a single voice in such tight harmony with the government’s stated policies. There’s still work to be done in producing something that’s useful, rather than a positioning paper, but this is a promising first step from a new industry lobby group.

  1. One Response to “NZICT Near Future Digital Priorities Paper”

  2. Nat,

    Thanks for the assessment. What we set out to do was list out an action plan, that is why we called the paper Near Future priorities, it is focussed on immediate issues that are of concern to our Members. This is not intended to be a strategy paper, that is something we are working on separately but will require a lot more work, and be produced in conjunction with others. Thanks for the input, please keep it coming.

    By BrettO on Dec 9, 2009

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