Forum: Navigating the seven Cs

Digital Strategy revamp heads in right direction

One of the changes that pleased me about the draft version of Digital Strategy 2.0, compared with Version 1.0, was the inclusion of collaboration as a “fourth C” to add to those of connection, confidence and content.

Collaboration is the essence of the internet; it gives access not just to pre-packaged content but to others’ minds.

An international community sharing their common and differing perceptions is the power behind open source software, behind wikis and social/business networking and behind a potential role for NZ’s small and medium enterprises as part of larger multinational endeavours. It potentially revolutionises our economics and politics; to paraphrase former deputy Prime Minster Don McKinnon, New Zealanders no longer look in a mirror but a window onto the wider world.

Version 1.0 of the Strategy presented a rather proprietary view; producers create “content” and provide it, at a price, to confident, connected “consumers”. The Kiwi consumer’s highest aspiration is to produce his/her/its own content and market it to other consumers internationally.

In my submission on Version 1.0, I compared this to people throwing pre-cooked morsels into a communal pot and pulling out others’ contributions. This is not communication.

So I was pleased to see the fourth C acknowledged.

In the final version of Strategy 2.0, collaboration seems to have been demoted again. “Capability” replaces it in the set of “enablers” in the key diagram.

Collaboration is still there but at a level below the enablers, the level puzzlingly labelled “New Zealanders”. It’s as though New Zealanders already know how to collaborate before confidence, capability, connection and content enable them. I’m afraid particularly on the international front, it ain’t necessarily so.

I could be accused of putting too much weight on a diagram, but in the whole document, collaboration gets only 14 mentions and only about 10 of these relate to its role as a key enabler or outcome.

“Content”, by contrast, gets more than 70 citations. Many of these refer to the unique value of New Zealand content. While this should not be dismissed, it tends to focus our attention on what is different about us; our national character. The Strategy sees this as “valuable internationally”. That may be so, but the value of what we have in common is also not to be underestimated.

It’s like making an omelette; there is value in the cultural egg, but it profits us to break our self-contained shell; as the egg spreads and thins, we discover the things that cultures truly share, be they democratic principles or simply industry standards in ICT development.

We can establish and sell Kiwi difference and we can find our similarities and work together. Content, collaboration; we need both. They meet, perhaps in web services.

Judge David Harvey notwithstanding, old information should not be demoted to fish-and-chip wrapping. Conservation is a sixth C, in the sense of environmental sustainability and (as suggested by National Librarian Penny Carnaby) preserving our learning. Recycling — the “cradle to cradle” attitude the Strategy talks of — embraces reuse of data and code for new purposes.

I see capability and confidence as the first necessities. So equipped, we connect to bring about and use content and collaboration, conserving and reusing what we have achieved.

What results from this can be called creativity – I’d like to find a C synonym for productivity, which is rather different and acknowledged as an important goal.

The ultimate result, we trust, is commerce, competitiveness and simply coining it.

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