'Moral authority' key to new industry body

'Single voice' won't supress industry dissenters

Digital Development NZ, the new umbrella organisation for the ICT industry, will provide “a clear, independent voice, right to the top levels of government” says ICT Minister David Cunliffe, who formally launched the organisation and its Council last week.

The voice of DDNZ will go straight to ministerial level without the intervening presence of officials, Cunliffe says. Complaints have often come from industry representatives that government officials water down or change the intended emphasis of a message before it gets to top levels.

The new body sounds promising, says NZ Computer Society president Don Robertson, but “the proof of the pudding” will be in the way it works in practice and this will only emerge in time.

The key will be building the “moral authority” to act as a credible voice to government, says TUANZ executive director Ernie Newman.

The single voice will not mitigate the right of the current contributing organisations to present their own views to government when appropriate, Cunliffe insists. DDNZ “is not intended to subsume the function of any of those bodies.”

An attempt to subsume the bodies into a single organisation, assigning them all different roles was a feature of the failed ICT-NZ plan and a reason for its collapse.

The spokespeople for the subsidiary ICT bodies say that one voice will emerge when the members are sure they can speak with reasonable agreement. There is also an incentive to agree; to muster the power of the single organisation which already has the ear of government.

The Digital Development Council is the governance and operational arm of the organisation. It has been put in place first, as an incorporated society, with a representative from each of the existing bodies.

Its first task will be to appoint an independent chairman, get funding released from government and then create the Digital Development Forum, which will be “the main agent” in this Digital Development Group, says Cunliffe.

“It will be an ‘association of associations’ that brings together a range of organisations with a common interest in digital development. Its members are expected to include ICT users, professionals, suppliers, local government, and community and voluntary, Maori and cultural groups,” he says.

The forum will provide the larger body of views which will help define the priorities and work programme of DDNZ. The organisation will be funded by government, but government, Cunliffe insists, will stay out of its decision-making processes.

The forum will have the power to appoint future members of the council.

The council was formed as an incorporated society so it can be a legal entity capable of entering into binding contracts with third parties.

There was some discussion of how many seats there should be on the council representing each existing body, members acknowledged, but this was not a struggle for dominance, they insist. Newman, in particular, unhesitatingly denied a rumour that TUANZ had lobbied for two seats.

Computerworld understands the one seat, two seats discussion was purely a technical matter related to the minimum size of an incorporated society. But a way was found to give each of the 10 contributing organisations one seat on the council.

One of the council’s early tasks is to appoint an independent chair.

The 10 places on the council currently represent: TUANZ, InternetNZ, the New Zealand Computer Society, WIT Group (Women in Technology), the 2020 Communications Trust, Local Government NZ, Business New Zealand, Te Huarahi Tika Trust, the ICT industry (which is forming its own representative body) and the community and voluntary sector. Representatives for these last two sectors are yet to be appointed.

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Tags david cunliffedigital development forumdon robertsonernie newmancouncil

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