IT bodies try to save Digital Development Council

DDC members hoping to find another source of funding to preserve the overarching ICT sector body

Digital Development Council members are discussing how to preserve the overarching ICT sector body in some form, after the government withdrew funding for the organisation.

Representatives of the DDC’s constituent sector organisations met on February 4, the day before ICT Minister Steven Joyce announced the withdrawal of funds, says chief executive Paul Alexander.

“We knew it was going to happen”, he says.

Sentiment was strongly in favour of finding another source of funding to enable DDC or an organisation with a similar purpose, to continue providing liaison among sector groups such as InternetNZ, the Computer Society, TUANZ, local government ICT interests and users of ICT in the creative and cultural, transport, education and other key sectors of the economy.

Further meetings are planned.

One major obstacle is that funding from the obvious source – the private ICT industry – is as good as closed off, Alexander claims. He believes that DDC’s champions do not want to be seen to be siphoning funds away from the new ICT industry body, NZICT Group, that continues to have the ear of government. NZICT Group, which is mainly supported by IT vendors, is currently recruiting its first chief executive.

In announcing the withdrawal of DDC funding, Joyce stated the government prefers to deal with individual bodies such as InternetNZ, TUANZ and NZICT directly.

However, the champions of DDC say a single point of interface to government was only one part of the Council’s function; it has also acted as a valuable point of liaison among the sub-sectors of ICT interest.

Such sub-sectors had an opportunity to improve their own cohesion at the inaugural and only workshop of the Digital Development Forum, last September, and some, at least, are likely to continue as effective lobbies, Alexander says. This could generate some bottom-up pressure for preservation of some overarching body, he suggests.

ICT commentator Paul Reynolds is definitely of that mind. On his McGovern Online blog (mcgovernonline.blogspot.com/) Reynolds says: “There is nothing to stop the members of the DDC keeping the Council active, and supporting the ongoing work streams already identified by some of the sector groups inside the Digital Development Forum.

“On a personal level I can testify that the creative/cultural sector representatives who attended the first session of the Digital Development Forum, really did have a proper conversation,” he says. They have continued talking on such thorny topics as new intellectual property structures and business models, and developing new forms of digital public space.

“In short, there is totally no need for the DDC, or the DDF to walk into the snow,” Reynolds says, “both parties just need a new tent and a better map and compass.”

The 2020 Communications Trust chairman Don Hollander in commenting on the McGovern blog, suggests various sources of funding, including the Tindall Foundation, Todd Foundation, Digital Opportunities Fund, Liz Dengate Thrush Foundation, Community Trusts, local and regional councils, iwi or churches.

“With its composition, the Council should be providing very good introductions and advice to the CEO who I am sure will be only too happy to actively pursue other sources,” Hollander says.

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