'Stocktake' of local IT projects

NZ business efforts are barely listed, reports Stephen Bell

New Zealand has major IT initiatives to show the world in an international “stocktake” of steps towards building the “information society” — but almost all the effort, international observers would conclude, comes from government.

The contribution of NZ business and "civil society", made much of last year, is less apparent in the study.

The stocktaking exercise is being undertaken in preparation for the second round of the Worldwide Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis later this year. “It is intended to fulfil the dual purpose of providing an inventory of activities undertaken by governments and all stakeholders in implementing the Geneva decisions (the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action at the 2003 summit in Geneva) and of taking stock of the progress made in building the information society”, says a report on stocktaking progress by the WSIS secretariat.

A questionnaire was developed and “sent to all stakeholders” and posted online. The portal for reporting projects is intended to remain open as a long-term resource.

In a comparison of regional initiatives, the Asia–Pacific region is separately identified but, puzzlingly, New Zealand's contributions do not show up under that heading. We are actually in the Western Europe/North America region, because that is the way we are categorised by the UN, says a government spokeswoman. The broader search reveals references to the government-inspired Digital Strategy, the Electronic Transactions Act and the work of the Internet Safety Group. The Probe broadband scheme is also mentioned.

Most of the 1196 contributions recorded came from governments, with branches of international organisations second by number of submissions. “Civil society”, whose advocates constantly felt the sector was undervalued in the 2003 WSIS conference, made a respectable showing, exceeding the number of initiatives reported from private businesses.

New Zealand private industry is represented only by Telecom's SchoolZone networking package.

New Zealand has a number of initiatives under the civil society heading, from the Computers in Homes scheme through computer recycling to the rural women's initiative "Not Just Gumboots and Scones" .

At a local government level, New Zealand is represented by inititives from Wellington, its Newtown suburb, Rotorua St Albans in Christchurch, and Te Puke Ariki (misspelt Te Puke Erika in the WSIS report), a Taranaki effort to promote knowledge of the region — from current events to museum and library holdings.

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