Pro-business tilt at InternetNZ council misfires

TUANZ' future relationship with InternetNZ remains unclear

An attempt to elect a slate of business-oriented candidates — some with strong connections to telecommunications users' group TUANZ — to the InternetNZ council has largely failed.

One of the movers of the slate, Michael Foley, says its purpose was to help broaden the constituency of the society and raise awareness of the business relevance of the internet. It is no longer something of interest primarily to technically and academically-minded people, but the “engine of the economy” and a vital part of “NZ Inc”, he says.

InternetNZ manages the .nz domain name system and acts as a lobby on internet issues.

The backers of the slate tried to persuade a large bloc of voters to put the same candidates as first preference, systematically boosting people with similar ideas onto the council. While there is nothing in the InternetNZ constitution prohibiting bloc voting, discussion at the AGM and subsequently on the members’ discussion email list made it clear that some considered it an unfair tactic.

The group’s candidate for president, Michael Wallmansberger, and vice president, Laurence Millar, both failed, but several others, including Foley and Judy Speight, were returned to council by the voters.

Foley is vice-chairman of TUANZ and the slate included other candidates, such as Speight, with strong TUANZ connections. Foley discounts suggestions that the group's aims include resuscitating plans for a merger of the two organisations. These plans struck a seemingly fatal hiatus earlier this year (Computerworld, April 27).

His group of candidates probably wasn’t the only bloc voting exercise, Foley says. Some of the more technically focussed members of InternetNZ plainly nominated one another for council.

Members of the TUANZ board and InternetNZ council aren’t in a position conducive to a merger yet, Foley says. Time is needed for them and the membership to appreciate how much the interests of the two overlap.

“I’m a great strategy-before-structure man,” he says.

Every user of the telephone, if only for voice, is effectively a user of the internet, and the internet is, of course, vitally dependent on the country’s basic telecommunications structure, says Foley. InternetNZ is increasingly aware of the broader business constituency while TUANZ’ agenda has moved markedly away from “just phones”.

One of the main reasons for the collapse of collaborative negotiations, Foley suggests, is that advisors pushed too hard for a full merger “and that spooked the horses on both sides”.

Several members of the slate were already on council, and the councillors finally elected do not differ greatly from the previous group, he says; but there will be a more outward focus towards encouraging business users to become active members “not people who just pay their sub every year”.

“A lot of us are the same people but will be a different council,” he says. In the face of good organisation by the "supply side" of the ICT industry, the "demand side", users, need to get its act together.

“We don’t need to do the same things twice,” Foley says.

The discontinued Digital Development Council was a good way of gently encouraging such collaboration, Foley says, but it was on the cards that the National-led government would can it after the election “simply because it wasn’t their idea”.

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