- Giving it away
- Thinking about giving it away
- Spending too much of it
- Giving it away
It’s a state Fryup this week. When it comes to IT, it appears that the government is giving money away, thinking about giving money away and in some cases spending too much money.
Only 10 years ago Smales Farm was exactly that. A pastoral relief to the light industry and suburban sprawl of Auckland’s North Shore. (North Shore-ites don’t be offended – I’ve lived there myself.) Now the farm is a business “park” and the new home of the EDS applications support and development centre. (Someone told me a few cows were retained to keep the zoning rural and the rates down but I think the last cow has now hoofed it to the freezing works.)
When the EDS centre was first announced in March, it caused some consternation because it was built with the help of a $1.5 million government grant. The proviso was that it must create 360 jobs (so precise – I suppose they had to put a stick in the sand somewhere) within three years. EDS, which is spending more than $15 million on the project, has to pay the grant back if it fails to deliver.
At the time economic development minister Jim Anderton said the government would consider helping out Kiwi companies too. He must’ve been referring to the ICT Taskforce and IT expansion in education, and a $50,000 grant to the Canterbury electronics cluster because that’s what his office pointed to when tackled on the subject this week by Computerworld.
As a financial investment it doesn’t look like a bad move. EDS says it has 10 multi-national clients such as Chevron-Texaco and the Commercial Bank of Australia lined up to use the centre and industry players now say it probably will succeed in its task. WINZ has become a major recruiter for the contact centre and, as wily Axon head Matt Kenealy points out, if it really does create 360 jobs over three years, the government will get the money back in income tax alone.
If the government makes money out of this grant, that’s more money to go into funding for local companies. Well, that’s the theory. It’ll be interesting to do that EDS head count in mid-June 2006.
- Thinking about giving it away.
Yep, the government says some state funding may be found to establish a New Zealand Next-Generation Internet (we’re talking gigabits-a-second speed), but it wants private initiatives to shoulder most of the responsibility. Initial users are likely to be crown research institutes, universities and (in the private sector) biotech companies and creative media concerns like Weta Digital.
Canterbury Development Corporation’s Larry Podmore believes having such a fast, reliable network could mean billions of dollars of research contracts for New Zealand establishments if they were able to collaborate with overseas centres of research.
Many other countries have been able to justify a dedicated NGI for the research and education sector, largely on account of their size. Usage of these networks is governed by acceptable usage policies (AUPs) to exclude commercial traffic. New Zealand is probably too small for this approach to be realistic. Also the demand for bandwidth in the digital media and post-production sector already exceeds that required for research and education.
The US, Canada, Australia and the UK are already building or have built NGI networks and are using them to do interactive collaboration, real-time access to remote resources, shared virtual reality and large scale, multi-site computation and data mining.
Our government has given $50,000 for a scoping study and it should give more if it wants anyone to believe it, the next time its starts spouting knowledge economy rhetoric.
- Spending too much.
At least half the 10 large government IT projects being monitored by the State Services Commission (SCC) and the Treasury are behind schedule according to the DominionPost. For example, a $5.6 million project to get all legislation online seems to have hit the rocks although the IT vendor, Unisys, and Parliamentary Counsel Office deny any major problem. However, the project will have to undergo a technical review.
Other projects behind schedule are Courts' $32 million computerisation initiative, which is at least $8 million over budget.
Archives New Zealand's $7 million project to create an online index of its holdings is also several months behind schedule through technical problems.
The SCC and Treasury are continuing to monitor a $12 million Social Development Ministry project to amend the department's Swiftt benefit payments system, implementing new cross-border social security arrangements with Holland and Australia.
The work was originally due to be completed by July last year.