Certification could give preference for govt work

The NZCS is encouraging government to employ only certified professionals on its ICT projects

The NZ Computer Society is looking forward to the day when the government sets an example by employing only certified professionals on its ICT projects.

The Society is planning such a certification scheme to give local computer professionals a recognised certification comparable with those for other professions, such as accountancy and law, and has already received a tentatvie nod from government, it says.

“We’ve had discussions with both the State Services Commission and the Ministry of Economic Development,” NZCS chief executive Paul Matthews told a meeting in Wellington last week.

“They’ve both said that assuming they’re happy with the detail of the programme when it comes out, they will look to making it not a requirement for people but a preference for people that are contracting to do government work, or coming in to the employ of government right across the board.”

The meeting was the first of several regional meetings to discuss the Society’s plans to encourage a measurable professional standard in ICT.

The Society will not be encouraging such a closed shop itself, Matthews emphasises; the choice to become a professional should remain voluntary. If a professional qualification is made a condition of working on significant projects, that initiative will come from government or from “somewhere else”, not from the Society, he says.

However, says president Don Robertson, “it is inevitable that once you have a standard of that kind people will start to say: we need someone of that standard to sign off these critical systems.”

“Who knows what’ll happen in 10 years time?” Matthews says; “but at this point in time that’s not our intention; we want it there to fill a need, not because you’re compelled to do it.”

The question of compensation for the client of a badly executed system done by a qualified contractor was raised at the meeting. “We’ve been considering whether we should have some sort of fidelity fund for the people who are certified,” says Robertson “and we’ve had discussions with people who might underwrite that. It is possible, but I don’t know at this stage whether we’ll do that.”

The Society envisages setting up a database of professionals, to make it easier for a client to find a suitably qualified person.

Robertson foresees that with the growing recognition of the status of “certified IT professional”, employment agencies and employers will start putting “CITP-preferred” in advertisements.

“That’s certainly what has happened in the UK,” says member Jo Komisarczuk, who has worked there and is registered under the British Computer Society’s scheme. The BCS started its CITP scheme five years ago, with the British government now suggesting that by 2010, the CITP or demonstrated equivalent standard of competence will be required for central or local government work, she says.

One member of the audience suggested that the open source community with its trust in “many eyes” and its free adoption and adaptation of code authored by others, might regard a requirement for registration as too restrictive.

NZ Open Source Society president Don Christie says he has not noticed any such feeling in the open source community. The registration initiative has been discussed there and there are, naturally, people for and against it, but no opposition on balance, he says. He points out that the open source community has set up professional qualifications of its own.

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