The government will fund a new, broad digital sector forum, Communications and Information Technology Minister David Cunliffe announced today.
The forum will likely pick up aspects of the work of the NZ HiGrowth Project and Digital Strategy Advisory Group, which will cease to function in March and April respectively. Earlier today, an earlier unsuccessful attempt to deliver a single ICT sector representative body, ICT-NZ, announced it was shutting up shop.
“Creating a digital future for New Zealanders requires collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders,” Cunliffe said in a statement today.
“The new forum will create partnerships between industry, community and voluntary groups and users and provide a coordinated voice to government on digital issues. It is important that the interests of the wider digital community and those working with government on the development and implementation of the Digital Strategy and other initiatives are heard."
Attempts to deliver cohesive representation for the ICT industry in government have significantly failed over the last two years.
Late last year a blunder in deleting material from a Cabinet Paper inadvertently revealed the extent of that failure and the planned government funding:
“Although ICT-NZ was formally established in 2004, it has yet to gain any traction with, or material funding from, key sector players,” paragraphs in the Cabinet paper noted.
“HiGrowth both funds ICT-NZ directly and diverts other resources to promote the establishment of ICT-NZ,” the paper said and this was debilitating both organisations.
The potential for conflicts of interest between the bodies and their officers was also flagged.
The forum is expected to be fully operational by the middle of 2008, today's statement says. This will coincide with the launch of the refreshed Digital Strategy 2.0, which will set out the direction of New Zealand’s digital future.
The statement says the government will cooperate with ICT sector plans to establish an industry body focusing on commercial issues "as a self-funded initiative".
In March, Cabinet agreed to funding of $825,000 for each of the first two years of of the new body. Annual funding of $400,000 from then will cover the operationing costs of the forum.
That funding will be reviewed in November 2009, in conjunction with mutual agreement on a work programme.