Simpl Group chief executive Bennett Medary has been elected chair of industry lobby group NZICT, taking over from Cisco Systems chief executive Geoff Lawrie, who did not seek reelection.
Medary says his election will give the organisation a more New Zealand face and moderate the dismissive reaction of some local sources who consider NZICT is primarily a lobby for big multinationals.
Medary, in his second year as a member of the NZICT board, is the first chair to be elected from what NZICT calls its Tier Two members — the medium-sized and mostly local companies. Previous chairs have been from Tier One, the largest companies.
A chair from a local company may also encourage other Tier Two-sized companies to join, Medary says. Tier Three consists of very small companies and individual members.
He says NZICT will continue to lobby and advise government — not solely on procurement, though that has been a recent emphasis, but on how government might use ICT to smarten up its own processes for the benefit of the economy. The skills market is another area where Medary sees NZICT and government profitably collaborating.
The government-backed Ultrafast Broadband project is clearly crucial for the enabling role of ICT in the economy, says Medary.
NZICT is working on Hybrid SmartStreet, a series of case studies it intends to put together with the aid of TVNZ and Australasian TiVo agents Hybrid TV on practical ways of using broadband to increase efficiency and productivity.
Another practical NZICT initiative is a SmartBusiness competition; small-to-medium businesses will be encouraged to put forward ideas for improving their performance with the aid of ICT and the winner will get a free “business makeover” along the lines it suggests.
NZICT will also be forging stronger links with complementary ICT organisations such as the NZ Computer Society. There is scope for “symbiosis” there, Medary says. NZICT will also be exploring how best to collaborate with user organisations such as TUANZ.
So is this a similar initiative to the Digital Development Council and Digital Development Forum, which were getting under way under the Labour-led government before the Key government withdrew funding? Is the industry revisiting old ground?
“There have been many recognitions over the years of this [need for broad collaboration in ICT],” Medary says, “and the need is every more pressing”. However, he sees the National government as not interested in sponsoring another “talk-group”; it wants the ICT industry to take the initiative for itself this time and encourage “vision with action”.
The third plank of collaboration ties NZICT in with specific sectoral organisations such as the Health IT Cluster and the Spatial Industries Business Association in Communities of Interest (COIs). These partners can advise and recommend initiatives in their own specialist areas and feed into the general push to enable New Zealand with ICT, Medary says.