Squabbling starts as new industry body shapes up

Other networks complaining of exclusion

Stirrings of discontent are already emerging as the new umbrella ICT industry body, the Digital Development Council and Forum, takes shape.

The first meeting of the Digital Development Council took place earlier this month and chose Fran Wilde, chair of the Greater Wellington Regional Council, to be its independent chair for the next nine months.

Meanwhile, with the formation of another network of associations to represent software industry interests, others are complaining of exclusion. Wayne Hudson, head of the new Software NZ Alliance, says Doug Martin, of consultancy Martin Jenkins, which handled the formation of the Digital Development Council, did not seek the views or involvement of the NZ Software Association.

Hudson says the DDC is a “government-dictated restructuring” of the sector and questions whether it can truly act as a critical lobby on the direction of the Digital Strategy and associated initiatives when it is funded by government.

“I think its chance of real achievement is limited,” he says. “We had a potential lobby group for the sector and it’s changed to a group whose job is to advise government; a group which gets its finance from government.”

The NZSA was one of the leading lights of an earlier unsuccessful industry super-group, ICT-NZ. Other major bodies concerned with that effort, such as InternetNZ and the NZ Computer Society, were invited to take part in the DDC.

Asked whether the NZSA had made an approach to the council to be involved, he says by the time the plans for the DDC had assumed a clear shape “it was all a bit too late”. When government originally issued a tender for advice on the shape of an umbrella industry organisation, Hudson suggested to HiGrowth Trust head Garth Biggs that they put in a joint bid for the task, he says. But the idea came to nothing and Martin Jenkins got the job.

“I had the clear impression that their brief did not include consultation with everyone,” Hudson says. “Perhaps we should have jumped up and down and said ‘listen to us too’ but it seemed to be a fait accompli.”

Hudson appears puzzled by the presence of a member of the DDC board representing the ICT industry.

“I don’t know who this is who’s supposed to be representing us,” he says.

He says it might be a good idea for the NZSA and its companions in the Software NZ Alliance to seek involvement with a separate organisation being put together by vendors, currently under the coordination of Microsoft CEO Kevin Ackhurst.

Doug Martin says the Software Association was “part of the original consultation process”, as were some of the other 90-odd small industry associations. Faced with choosing a small set of representative associations to form a comfortably sized council, “we had to make some judgement calls”, he says.

He too suggests the Software NZ Alliance’s niche might be with the industry organisation, or with the Digital Development Forum, the larger body which will be formed to deliberate on industry challenges.

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Tags digital development council and forum

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