The former head of the HiGrowth project, Garth Biggs, hopes that the new government-funded ICT industry body that absorbs its functions will be able to make headway in some projects that HiGrowth did not have the funding to tackle.
An especially important task is to “address the misconceptions among the parents of [today’s students] about ICT,” he says. Young people are still very much influenced by their parents when it comes to a career choice. “Parents think of ICT as a blue-collar industry; high-risk and low-paid.”
This impression needs to be turned around, he says. “We need to get out there and tell our stories.”
There’s a whole group of 20-somethings earning significantly more than their parents did and getting the chance to work overseas and be part of an exciting forward-looking profession, he says. ICT needs to be presented as offering as good a spectrum of opportunity as the perceived top-level professions of law and accountancy.
This was a project that HiGrowth had long planned, but it ran on “the smell of an oily rag”, says Biggs.
Biggs says he’s all for the new body if it continues some of what HiGrowth was doing and combines it productively with the functions of the Digital Strategy Advisory Group.
Like other industry figures, he expresses some reservations about the intention of the new body to cater for community and user needs as well as those of the industry.
“The thing that drives it for me is New Zealand’s poor productivity. We can address that with ICT. Let’s use ICT to lift our overall standard of living, then the problem of getting PC experience among people in South Auckland may solve itself.”
The main industry body will begin moving into implementation mode very soon, says Doug Martin, of consultancy Martin Jenkins, who has played a pivotal role in getting the body off the ground.
A second, more commercially-oriented body, a successor to the former Itanz, arose independently and is separate and independent of government finance.
They will probably sit at the table of the more broadly-based forum on the same basis as other participating industry associations, Martin says.
That separate commercial ICT umbrella group has only just kicked off, says Microsoft NZ CEO Kevin Ackhurst. He disclaims any status as a foundation member of the group, saying he’s only been charged with the responsibility of canvassing interest in a workshop to discuss the structure and functions of such an entity.
Ackhurst says about 20 companies have expressed interest so far and he will probably close off the canvassing effort shortly and schedule the initial workshop for two or three weeks’ time.
“I think we want to make this unlike anything that’s gone before, because we want it to have sustainability and longevity, and what went before clearly didn’t have that,” he says.
Itanz committed itself early to the ICT-NZ industry group, submerging its identity in the larger organisation. After three years attempting to get off the ground, ICT-NZ was eventually discontinued last month.
Government was the catalyst in the commercial group’s formation and its chief functions will be to engage with government and represent the industry, he says. The commercial group will be purely industry-funded.