Strategy feedback on standards, quality control

Funding no 'lolly scramble', says Cunliffe

Responses to the government’s draft Digital Strategy broadly to support its objectives but raise a number of further ideas and points of potentially costly or complex detail.

A national content strategy is a good idea, but privacy and intellectual property protection must be put in place to induce people and private organisations to unlock their information, say some respondents, or the national content repository risks having a disproportionate focus on “national heritage collections, government information, databases of scientific and technology information and scholarly journals.”

As with any database, quality assurance will also be vital, respondents say, with mechanisms for ensuring content is up-to-date and that anything out of date is removed or no longer indexed.

A pitch is also made for the importance of continuity — the ability to preserve information over time. National Library head Penny Carnaby emphasised this point earlier in the year, raising the prospect of a “digital Dark Ages” if old information was no longer readable.

In public forums and comments to Computerworld, open source enthusiasts come to the fore when this aspect was raised, with fears of proprietary formats locking up information, and promises of more economical creation of data by the masses through low-priced open source software. The digest of responses makes no mention of open source, or Linux.

A need for common standards and interoperability is, however, brought out in a number of areas, for example in geographical information. Government respondents, commenting on the government sector of the draft strategy, emphasise the need for shared standards, “but a whole of government vision requires changes in the way government departments work together,” they say. However, if government agencies get it together, they may provide leadership for other sectors “that are characterised by fragmentation of effort, limited resources and a diversity of objectives."

Broadband development and use naturally comes in for some comment, with local government respondents calling for “arm’s length Government initiatives to facilitate the uptake of broadband”, a clear plan for the achievement of broadband uptake benchmarks and regular monitoring against those targets.

The planned high-capacity advanced research and education network, currently intended to be largely closed to other industry sectors should be opened to the “creative industries” such as film, suggest respondents from the local government sector.

All of the planned and requested development naturally requires extra funding, and associate IT minister David Cunliffe held out some prospect of this in an address to Tuanz's “Broadband Reloaded” workshops last week. He notes this is the time of year when government agencies ready their proposals for the next Budget.

“At a general level some of the matters under consideration [in the strategy] will fall under the Growth and Innovation Framework, which has a strong emphasis on technology and productivity development across a range of sectors,” Cunliffe says. “I am hopeful that the digital strategy will be a significant component in the GIF.

“Conversely, some of the elements of the strategy are likely to fall within votes outside the GIF. The final strategy will therefore draw upon a range of funding mechanisms including vote baselines.”

He emphasises, though, that there must be realistic fiscal expectations and that the private sector will be expected to contribute some of the funding. “It is not the intention of the strategy process to bankroll a lolly scramble of central government programmes. In fact to do so would be contrary to the aims of the strategy.

“We are also a prudent and fiscally conservative government. Every dollar of new expenditure will be carefully weighed. Aligning, updating and integrating efforts in both the public and private sectors towards our shared goals should be the touchstone.”

Cunliffe says he intends to release the final digital strategy on behalf of the government around March next year. “In that time it should be possible to provide a clearer idea of funding priorities.”

The Digital Strategy document is expected to be finalised around March next year. A digest of responses was placed on the Ministry of Economic Development's website last week [ONLINE:].

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