Justify overseas IT: Williamson

National would consider making government departments that select overseas hardware and software suppliers justify the decision when local suppliers have also put in bids.

National would consider making government departments that select overseas hardware and software suppliers justify the decision when local suppliers have also put in bids.

The party’s IT spokesman, Maurice Williamson, emphasises that should National gain power there would be no compulsion to buy local products, but says making departments explain why an overseas supplier was selected might be a good idea.

Williamson, speaking at a New Zealand Software Association event, cautioned against giving the executive branch of government the final say over what departments bought, citing Incis as an example of a bad decision in that area.

“Do you want cabinet and the government to decide what software the public sector buys?”

During a discussion with the audience, the topic came up of how local software companies could better access loans from a risk-averse banking sector.

Investment funds such as the government’s Venture Investment Fund are all very well, some attendees said, but they’d like to be able to get loans from the bank like any other business. The fact software companies often don’t own property or hard assets that can be sold if they default on repayments makes banks reluctant to lend to them.

Williamson acknowledged the potential value of a government fund against which software companies could borrow, with their intellectual property as collateral.

However, he cautioned against dictating to banks who they could lend to or what they could lend against.

When the subject of local loop unbundling inevitably came up, Williamson noted that he isn’t National’s telecommunications spokesman — that role belongs to John Key — but weighed in anyway, saying National’s policy on LLU is that it shouldn’t happen.

“That’s not to say there aren’t merits in the arguments for LLU,” he added, but “we take the position that it’s not necessary”.

Taking that position “was a judgment call, a fine one”, he said. “And I hope technology will remove the need for LLU.”

Getting political and going back in time, Williamson said that LLU could have been mandated by the fourth Labour government when it sold Telecom in 1990, which he acknowledged might have reduced the $4.25 million it got for the then-SOE.

“To be fair,” he said, “back then, issues such as LLU weren’t widely known about.”

Williamson, a former programmer at Air New Zealand and computer science graduate, said he was looking at getting back into IT during his time in the political wilderness after he was suspended from the National Party last year.

He said he’d been bringing himself up to date with XML and confessed to having written a 30-page XML schema for a car.

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