ICT Minister David Cunliffe is painting a picture of the government putting decisions on the digital future into the hands of an independent entity with the imminent foundation of a government-backed ICT sector forum.
The forum will take the place of the failed ICT-NZ effort.
The original timetable for government digital initiatives was supposed to have seen a draft constitution out for comment by the end of April, but basic questions of structure are clearly still in flux. Sources close to the formation process suggest a formal launch might be some time this week or perhaps next — coinciding with broadband funding announcements expected in the Budget.
“While [the new body] will provide valuable advice to government, I am determined that it will not be bound by the apron strings of any government agency,” Cunliffe told the TUANZ Telecommunications Day conference earlier this month.
The new group will take over guidance of government’s Digital Strategy from the Digital Strategy Advisory Group, which was appointed by the minister and had strong links with the Ministry of Economic Development, which provided its secretariat.
However, Computerworld understands one of the new body’s major roles will be to perform projects whose terms will still be substantially defined from within government.
The Digital Strategy’s 2.0 draft gives scope for some self-generated projects, saying the group will “initiate, coordinate and support collaborative projects, with or without government input and funding.”
This leaves open the question of how tightly government funding will be tied to government input.
The forum’s other major role is to funnel the concerns and priorities of the sector back to government.
The Digital Strategy 2.0 report refers to the group long-windedly as “the overarching sector forum”. Computerworld understands the working title for the body is Digital Development New Zealand, but this could well be changed before formal launch, since the phrase “digital development” is already the name of a unit within MED.
A complex structure including “a national council of all members, an elected executive board, with an independent chair, an executive director and a small secretariat” was mooted in the Digital Strategy report, but Computerworld has been told this is likely to be simplified.
The “ICT sector” — the concern of Digital Development NZ — includes existing sector bodies such as the NZ Computer Society and InternetNZ as a federation with input into the forum.
The “ICT industry” — comprising the vendors — is considered a different creature and is building its own representative body. This body is likely to have a seat at the forum table alongside other bodies.