Major ICT associations involved with the Digital Development Council express hope that no matter what its fate now, in its short life it has cultivated better contacts among them which will lead to positive developments.
ICT Minister Steven Joyce earlier this month removed funding for the DDC, at the same time as he abolished the previous government’s Broadband Investment Fund. This was widely seen as having killed the organisation, though some involved are fighting for its survival.
TUANZ chief executive Ernie Newman says the DDC had a “superb” project on the stocks in the shape of the Connected New Zealand initiative – a community broadband project based on a successful initiative in the US state of Kentucky. He hopes some other organisation will pick up the project, but there seems to be “no logical conduit” for its implementation now the DDC is unfunded.
As a result of the DDC initiative, TUANZ has established good working relationships with the people behind Maori and community ICT initiatives, says Newman. It also brought the powerful Business NZ lobby into harness with the ICT sector bodies.
InternetNZ chief executive Keith Davidson says there was sufficient time during the DDC’s existence for groups to discuss productively potential projects and areas of common interest.
This has been a catalyst for “better communication and trust-building” between the bodies. There has been a “real degree of co-operation” that will leave its mark.
As long ago as “last century”, Davidson says, InternetNZ had a desire for a forum where the industry organisations would meet once or twice a year, inviting the minister and government officials to share ideas on stimulating the ICT industry and raising broader awareness and use of ICT.
“The DDC was going to go much further,” he says, but there is a good chance that something like the original plan might survive its demise. Such a gathering would not need major funding, he says.
The NZ Computer Society says it will help “carry the baton” from the DDC and Forum.
“While we’re obviously disappointed that the DDC has been scrapped before it’s had a chance to really get going, we also understand the reasoning in the current economic climate,” NZCS CEO Paul Matthews says.
As an example of the work NZCS will be coordinating, he points to the recent formation of a new Digital Literacy Division within the Society that actively tackles digital illiteracy in New Zealand and helps grow the core ICT skills of Kiwis.
“The increased collaboration between the member organisations as a result of the DDC has significantly accelerated some of these initiatives”, Matthews says.
“We will be continuing to work with the organisations that made up the DDC and others, and are committed to continuing with the projects started during the DDC era.”
NZCS will also be forming a Digital Literacy Taskforce to help guide and prioritise the work of the new NZCS division and will be continuing with this project “in a collaborative and progressive manner”.
“This work is too important to let lapse. We’re in talks with others about whether the DDC should continue in some form, however NZCS and others remain committed to tackling these issues collaboratively, with or without the DDC,” he says.