The ITANZ-sponsored e-government application development centre plan is complementary to Microsoft’s “innovation centre”, say the two organisations, though they differ on how they differ.
The ITANZ aim (E-gov't app centre gets backing) is “to bring forward technologies that are three to five years down the track” and may be useful to public-sector organisations in due course, says ITANZ head Jim O’Neill. Microsoft’s centre is looking at the more immediate needs of public-sector organisations, he says.
“It is likely that Microsoft people will be part of some of our development teams,” says O’Neill. “The areas of conflict between us are almost nil. We have overlapped slightly in our timing, but I see us as quite complementary.”
Microsoft New Zealand managing director Ross Peat notes that his company’s scheme — which is a virtual centre at present but is likely to have a physical presence within a university — goes only up to the “proof of concept” stage in collaboration with the public-sector customer and perhaps a private development partner. The ITANZ scheme would be more concerned with the subsequent implementation of applications, he suggests.
Microsoft last week presented some of the work of its centre, which has been in operation for about six months. It held an “open house” event in Wellington, at which a number of public-sector collaborators spoke about the development of projects using the centre. These included the Ministry of Education on ConnectEd, a pilot internet collaboration network for Correspondence School students; the Department of Conservation on the integration of its image library into Microsoft Office; and the Maori Language Commission on software for content management of its bilingual website.
Microsoft representatives of the South Australian “innovation centre”, launched in 2001, discussed a number of their projects.
Both O’Neill and Peat say the agencies working with the Microsoft centre are mostly those already using Microsoft products, so there is no question of encouraging government in general down a Microsoft road.
Clearly Microsoft is out to increase the use of its products and services in the New Zealand public sector, Peat says, “but everyone knows where we’re coming from”.
The centre’s main role, he says, is to act as a “circuit-breaker” or “catalyst” for projects that might otherwise not make it through to the proof-of-concept stage or beyond.