ICTNZ: close to launch, but ‘worker bees’ worried their voice won’t be heard

Organisations are worried about losing membership fees to ICTNZ and not getting equivalent value back

ICTNZ, the proposed umbrella organisation for New Zealand’s ICT sector, is inching closer to launch.

Garth Biggs, director of the government’s HiGrowth Project, spoke about the new body, and how it will be organised, at a Computer Society breakfast presentation held last week.

All ICTNZ’s member organisations — Biggs calls them “forums” — will continue to operate as they do today, he says.

The “forums” will have their own finances and budgets, and they could, potentially, also retain their own staff should they wish.

“There will be very little change,” he says.

However, the various organisations could find that having their own executive directors and administration staff is unnecessary in three to five years, Biggs believes.

Every organisation will nominate a representative to sit on ICTNZ’s executive forum, which will meet monthly. There will be an executive committee and an executive director, who will report to the ICTNZ board, which will have eight members.

Individual membership will cost $200 a year. This will buy the member one vote and allow entry to all the various member organisations.

The more an organisation puts into ICTNZ over the year the more votes it will earn. For example, organisations contributing the minimum, $350 per year, will get five votes; while those contributing $15,000 will get 200 votes.

However, there is widespread concern as to how ICTNZ will affect the ICT industry.

One of the obvious benefits, for member organisations, is that ICTNZ will provide a unified voice that can advocate on behalf of ICT, says Biggs. But the big question is whether it is really possible for all “forums” to share the same opinion.

One member of the audience mentioned the heated debates that go on between open-source advocates and proprietary software vendors as an example. Another mentioned the different views small companies and large corporations inevitably have on taxes on research and development.

In addition, many organisations are worried about losing membership fees to ICTNZ and not getting equivalent value back. For example, Carol Lee Andersen, founder and director of Women In Technology (WIT), says that her organisation “feeds the masses on five pieces of bread and two fish”.

“We rely on our membership fees [to be able to offer], for example, training, our mentoring programme and our schools programme,” she says.

“We are also trying to support smaller organisations.”

Biggs replied that the “forums” would have to negotiate over money.

“The forums will have to sit down and [discuss], ‘This is what we bring; what will we get back?’ There will be some horse-trading.”

Kate Stanton, who runs software company Walstan Systems, says she thinks that a central organisation is needed, but is concerned that smaller organisations risk being run over by the bigger players.

“I’m concerned that the big companies, which have got the money and the time, will make their voices heard, while the ‘worker bees’ will not [be able to make theirs heard],” she says.

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