We need a New Zealand CTO: Drury

Vision for New Zealand's fibre-connected future needed, Xero CEO says

Xero chief executive and Pacific Fibre founder Rod Drury is calling for a national chief technology officer to create a vision for New Zealand’s fibre-connected future.

Drury says the focus remains on the “pipes and the plumbing”, but he believes it is time to start thinking about how faster broadband will be used. Rather than expecting the government to come up with the vision, he suggests it is something the wider community needs to consider. “Let’s flip it around and say what is your plan, what would you do, how do you fix this?”

Last month Drury spoke out about the need for a national technology strategy at the TUANZ Rural Broadband Symposium. “We need to get the industry in the room, I think the industry’s pretty motivated but you need someone strong enough to actually run the process,” he told Computerworld at the time.

He is now suggesting that a role for a national CTO could be created in the same way that Dr Peter Gluckman is the Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister. “I think that John Key, he runs the country as a bit of a CEO, a CEO has his next level of people – we have a chief science adviser, and a chief technology officer I think would be really interesting.

“They could start to evangelise this national technology plan,” he says. “But I think it is [a national CTO] just one idea, I am not saying we have to have it.”

Drury says the ideal candidate would be someone at the end of his or her career that understands IT systems and has mana in both the industry and user communities, in the same way that Gluckman is highly respected in the scientific community.

“The problem is that this is really hard, it is really big brain stuff with lots of vested interests,” he says.

“The big thing is we are trying to grow the pie, we are trying to do things so that we can pay school teachers more, have better education, better health. The top thing is how do you grow the pie?

“We need to get more money into New Zealand and you do that either by exporting more or getting foreign directed investment into New Zealand, and have more people spending money here.”

Drury says small business owners need to understand the power of online communication, which can’t be achieved internationally if bandwidth is constrained. In addition, households have to support a new broadband infrastructure. But will they pay for telephone, fast broadband and IP-delivered television, if they are already paying for Sky connection? he wonders. “These are all the things that are related to solving the problem.”

He says as a small country we should be leveraging the fact “we all know each other”, and as an industry start putting forward ideas that will boost demand for the government’s Ultra Fast Broadband plan and Rural Broadband Initiative.

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