ICTX? What's that, asks backer of original app export plan

Rival schemes for bringing more government business to New Zealand IT firms and creating exportable intellectual property are not talking to each other and may be duplicating activities.

Rival schemes for bringing more government business to New Zealand IT firms and creating exportable intellectual property are not talking to each other and may be duplicating activities.

A key figure in one of the efforts, the so-called ICTX scheme, says plans are not far enough advanced to consider where the other scheme, promoted by IT industry lobby group ITANZ, might fit in.

The two schemes agree there is room for government procurement, allowing a fair go for local IT companies, but differ on their approach to the subsequent export of developed software.

“The honest truth is, [media reports this week are] the first I’ve heard of the [ICTX] scheme,” says ITANZ head Jim O’Neill. ITANZ is developing a Centre for Advanced Government IT Applications, an idea conceived and directed by former Industry New Zealand strategy manager Joseph Rousseau.

The ICTX proposal, which came out of a July meeting co-ordinated by Wellington software developer Synergy, has floated the idea of a central “commercialisation group” to market overseas systems developed for the New Zealand government.

Gordon Stevenson, team director for the IT sector at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and one of the key figures in the project, says ICTX is a “relatively informal exercise in getting people together” to look at the interface between local industry and government. Once some ideas have been developed further, they will be submitted to appropriate ministers, he says. But the project is far from that stage yet.

The commercialisation group idea was just “something that was raised in rudimentary discussions” and not a firm proposal by any means, he says.

The Rousseau/ ITANZ scheme has been in progress since 2001. Like ICTX, it sees changes to government IT procurement schemes as necessary. On the export side, however, the former scheme sees use of existing multinational companies’ channels as the most efficient route, rather than the establishment of a new body.

A central commercialisation group would have to be appropriately staffed and operated at some cost, and would probably be restricted to operation in certain countries only, says O’Neill. “I think it would be a difficult thing to do.”

It would be more efficient to get multinational companies on side with the operation, says Rousseau. “I see great value in following your customer; cultivating an ongoing relationship with them, and the multinationals operating in New Zealand today I see [not just as suppliers but] as customers.

“I think we should take advantage of that and say to these companies ‘we’d like a greater strategic relationship, whereby you take these local developments of ours and market them offshore’. We don’t need to seek new strategic relationships when we already have them.”

Stevenson says he’s aware of what ITANZ and Rousseau are doing. “It’s a very laudable process and their model should be seriously discussed, but I’ve not seen a final report from them yet.” There is still room for more than one set of ideas on the topic to be drawn together, he says.

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