Smaller IT firms weigh representation options

Two separate industry groups seem to be evolving: the Ackhurst-backed group and the Software NZ Alliance

Small local companies are welcome to join the still unnamed lobby group that has been tagged, unfairly, as being for multinationals only, says Microsoft NZ’s chief executive, Kevin Ackhurst, who is co-ordinating the group.

It is not the intention that the embryonic group to represent only the interests of large or overseas-based players, says Ackhurst.

At the same time, John Blackham, the chief executive of Auckland’s XSol, has been floating the idea of a scheme involving an interface between local companies and multinationals which would see the latter backing potential local software initiatives aimed at increasing New Zealand’s productivity. Part of this effort would involve helping the local companies secure government funding (Computerworld, July 7). Blackham sees the multinationals’ lobby group as being involved in the scheme.

If Ackhurst’s view prevails, such collaboration might be achieved by means of a single lobbying effort. However, at the moment, two separate industry groups seem to be evolving: the Ackhurst-backed group and the Software NZ Alliance (SNZA). The latter is intended specifically for the more numerous smaller companies that make up New Zealand’s home-grown software development industry.

Blackham has informally christened the multinational group “ITANZ 2” — as a successor to the now defunct IT Association of NZ. This was dominated by large multinationals. However, Ackhurst says a name hasn’t been chosen yet and the new body will be quite different to the old ITANZ.

“ITANZ 2” already has a guaranteed seat on the new government-backed strategic body, the Digital Development Council. SNZA is campaigning for its own seat at the DDC table.

The DDC’s chief architect, Doug Martin, has suggested SNZA might lobby the DDC by way of Ackhurst’s group, but SNZA members dismissed this in favour of a more direct approach in a meeting last month.

SNZA president Wayne Hudson said at the time that SNZA sees Ackhurst’s group as being for multinationals and that the interests of the two groups don’t coincide. Computerworld contacted Hudson after speaking to Blackham, but he was non-committal about the suggested arrangement.

Ackhurst says the larger-company group still sees training and recruitment as being the number one priority if New Zealand’s ICT industry is to advance.

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