Industry resistance stymies ICT-NZ progress

Organisations struggling to find common interest in the new body

InternetNZ is still looking at ways to engage with the new unified IT industry body, ICT-NZ, says executive director Keith Davidson. But the going is tough.

“Practically, it’s hard to find a way of engaging on ICT-NZ’s terms,” Davidson says.

The major sticking point is that the international Internet Society has delegated management of the .nz domain space to InternetNZ . “So we can’t just be absorbed into ICT-NZ [as] that would constitute a re-delegation of .nz,” says Davidson, who is himself on the board of ICT-NZ. He emphasises that InternetNZ is supportive of the general idea of a single industry body.

InternetNZ is not alone in struggling to find common interest in the new body, which was mooted, with government support, to provide a unified voice for the New Zealand ICT industry.

For instance, members of the NZ Computer Society (NZCS) are concerned their society’s identity would be lost if it was submerged into ICT-NZ. Society representatives in Wellington favour a federated model that would ensure the society retained a separate identity, while still being an ICT-NZ member.

In discussion forums, NZCS members have expressed suspicion that the

government is subtly trying to influence developments so the industry ends up with just one central body, which would be easier for the government to deal with.

Matters came to a head in March, when the NZCS working group, known as NIWG — formed to negotiate the relationship between the two bodies — drafted a Memorandum of Understanding with ICT-NZ, which is still confidential to the NZCS’ ruling council.

Jo Komisarczuk, Wellington branch representative on the council, “responded to the working group, via the council, requesting 72 amendments to the document, because many items were of questionable or no advantage to the society,” according to a branch members’ newsletter.

“However, instead of responding to these and other requests from the council, NIWG [members] attended another meeting with ICT-NZ and stated that they would create an updated version.”

After intensive discussions with the council, the Wellington branch representatives tabled four motions in council, which were accepted. This has resulted in NIWG being disbanded, after a final report on April 30, and the society taking a break from ICT-NZ work until November 2007 at the earliest.

“NIWG was commissioned to do one thing: to come up with a draft agreement on joining forces with ICT-NZ,” says society president Richard Donaldson.

By early this year, it appeared that NZCS was almost being subjected to a process of due diligence, with ICT-NZ requesting information from NZCS on its business plans, while not reciprocating, says Donaldson. “There was not enough information for us to be confident [about joining, on the current terms].”

Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) chairman Merv Altments says his organisation has never considered joining ICT-NZ. “We don’t see it as having anything in common with us,” he says. “It’s a supplier type of organisation. We focus on the user.”

Wireless and Broadband Forum president Andre Russell says the Forum, which has been involved in the plans for a unified industry body since early on, has still not committed to membership.

“We are a supporter of the concept,” he says. But, he says, there are significant differences in the Forum’s governance, membership classes and fees, as well as the benefits offered to members, compared with those being offered by ICT-NZ.

That leaves ITANZ, SoftwareNZ, the Health IT Cluster and the Canterbury ICT Cluster as committed ICT-NZ members. However, ITANZ doesn’t appear to be active any more — its website features no recent updates and a phone call to its contact number was passed on to a message service that says the ITANZ voice mailbox is full.

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